Coalition of mostly mobile tech companies hopes to connect the 5 billion people in the world who do not yet have Internet access.
Mark Zuckerberg has formed a global partnership with a group of tech companies that aims to bring affordable Internet access to the world.
The Facebook chief executive announced Tuesday that the social network has partnered with the likes of Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung to form Internet.org, which aims to deliver the Internet to the 5 billion people in the world without access.
"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect," Zuckerberg said in a statement. "There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."
The group, which also includes MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Opera, plans to marshal the aid of wireless operators and device manufacturers to bring Internet access to the roughly two-thirds of the world's population who aren't connected. The group hopes to achieve this by focusing on a small number of goals.
Chief among those goals is providing affordable access, including making mobile connectivity more affordable. The group also wants to make more efficient use of data that would result in the dramatic reduction in the amount of data needed to run apps and power the Internet.
Finally, the group plans to back new business models and offer incentives to mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers, and other businesses to lower the cost of access. The group also intends to increase the number of languages enabled for use on mobile devices.
Focusing on mobile access seems key for the initiative's success. Mobile traffic is growing so fast globally that in some places it has already surpassed desktop traffic, according to a report released in December by Kleiner Perkins.
The initiative could also help Facebook attract new users from developing nations. A Pew Research Center report released last year found that even though Internet access is often scarce in developing areas, when people do get on the Web they are more likely to join a social-networking site. In the 12 countries surveyed by Pew, at least six in 10 smartphone users go on social networks with their phones.