Mark Zuckerberg wants Internet to be a part of every household in the world through Internet.org. According to him, initially, it is not profit-driven. But we all know that once it sets a base in the market, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) would move ahead to make money out of it. In the process, Facebook partnered with six telecom companies, namely Ericsson (ADR) (NASDAQ: ERIC), Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (KRX: 005930), Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE: NOK), Opera Software (OTCMKTS: OPESF) and Mediatek Inc. (TPE:2454). Internet.org offers free access to apps like AccuWeather, Google Search, Facebook, Wikipedia and other different apps to developing countries like Zambia, Tanzania, and Paraguay. Zuckerberg wants to use drones and satellites in bringing the internet to two-thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it.
But Zuckerberg’s altruism is questioned here; does he want the internet to be more accessible or Facebook since there is no market left for him in the developed countries? So basically in these countries, the growth of Facebook is almost stranded. In these developing countries, poverty and lack of food are bigger issues to be addressed than internet accessibility.
To this, Zuckerberg says, “The reason why they’re not on [the Internet] is they don’t know why they would want to get access to it.”
Internet.org on the field
Facebook has partnered with Bharti Airtel which propagates its subscribers in Kenya to access Internet.org which provides access to basic internet services for health, education, finance, employment, communication, and local information-related issues. Data will only be charged when one tries to access services outside the free basic ones. But the same question is asked again that people go hungry in Kenya, most of the natives are poverty-stricken. Then how will they afford the internet or better data plans? It will be mean to show them the benefits of the internet and then tempt them to spend money to get more out of it because that is something most people in Kenya will fail to do.
In Zambia, the Asikana Network is using Internet.org to educate the women of their country more about their legal rights.
But still, this is not considered to be a philanthropic move on part of Zuckerberg as in order to expand the business, Facebook needs to be more accessible worldwide. Though, a report by Deloitte claims that making the internet more accessible to the people of developing nations could benefit the mass by opening 140 million job opportunities. Also, 160 million people will be lifted from below the poverty line.
E-commerce makes its way in
E-commerce, today, is a worldwide phenomenon. It is changing people’s approach towards shopping and trade. Online shopping has made its mark when it comes to global expansion strategies. Statistics show that the percentage of internet users worldwide that have purchased goods online roughly equals to 40, that is, more than 1 billion users.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) being one of the leading e-commerce platforms can benefit from the Internet.org consortium. Though making a profit from developing countries like Kenya and Zambia won’t take them far but at least they can set a market awareness of their name and the benefits of getting access to such a platform. Asian competitors of Amazon like Alibaba (HKG:1688) and Rakuten (TYO:4755) can also incur the same kind of benefits from this plan of getting to use the internet free of cost.
Free of cost way to communicate: WhatsApp
Whatsapp is again another global phenomenon that has lifted communication to a different level altogether. Delivering a message to someone in particular or even to a group of people in a few seconds is at people’s fingertips. Since many of the developing countries do not have data services, they have to depend on the SMS service where they are charged for every message they send. Data services would bring Whatsapp to them and make communication easier and faster.
Whatsapp has subscription-based business model faced tough competition in the market, initially. Facebook, by then, had already set its ground in the market. So, Whatsapp decided to just focus on its growth and not on the revenue it could incur in order to compete with Facebook. Gradually, Whatsapp gained the kind of fame it longed for. Whatsapp has already gained enough fame in South America and Asia. And finally, Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19 billion.
As Zuckerberg proposes that his sole motto behind introducing Internet.org is to make the internet more accessible to every human walking the earth’s surface and at the same time, control various apps and entire internet usage for the next 1 billion people who will get to access the internet, Facebook needs to make the internet more affordable and provide with incentives, cheaper infrastructure, and easier accessibility. Hence, this would also make Whatsapp more accessible which will lead to a faster and more instant way of communication. But the concern is that Zuckerberg never clearly said anything about making Whatsapp non-chargeable.
Other benefits of free internet
The moment internet becomes free; it will open the doors of globalization wider erasing the geographical boundaries on a virtual level. Apart from achieving betterment in the field of communication, cultural exchange will attain a new height with the help of the internet. People can get ideas about other nations, their history, culture, etc. This also includes getting updates about the latest happenings, that is, news from all over the world. If Google becomes free, advertisements become free which is beneficial to businesses. This will also make information on anything and everything under the sun accessible, starting from the address of a service provider to information on our solar system. This will also provide access to different kinds of books which one can read. Information on different scientific facts and experiments would enhance people’s knowledge. Free internet would also promote viewing of the images of almost everything on earth and beyond.
Thus, Zuckerberg’s idea might have a futuristic vision of setting foot in the new markets and incurring profit from them, but it’s a long-term plan. If the introduction of the internet can increase job opportunities and elevate the standard of living of a good number of people suffering from poverty, then Zuckerberg’s idea can be considered. Betterment of the developing countries in totality should be his aim.