Facebook Aims To Get Billions Online

An initiative to bring internet access to the “next five billion” people has been launched by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The social network has teamed up with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, among others, to lower the cost of mobile data.

The group said it wanted to help those in developing countries to become part of the internet community.

But one expert said those nations had “other priorities” to deal with first.

Mr Zuckerberg said the goal was to make “internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it”.

The group’s statement said only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – had access to the internet. Adoption was growing by less than 9% a year, which was not fast enough.

Central to the group’s plans is to be more “data efficient” by researching ways to use less data to load websites or load apps.

The statement said: “Potential projects include developing data compression tools, enhancing network capabilities to more efficiently handle data, building systems to cache data efficiently and creating frameworks for apps to reduce data usage.”

Dr Michael Jennings, chair of African studies at Soas, University of London, said he welcomed the firms’ efforts, but that priority must be given to other pressing needs such as providing power to keep devices up and running.

“It’s something of a misnomer that the five billion aren’t connected,” he told the BBC.

“Most people have made a call or used a mobile phone, and the success of things like mobile money service M-Pesa has shown just how many people are using these things.”