In this day and age, the internet is an integral part of everyday life. Many people are dependent on the internet for both their social and work lives. Put simply, many people could not live without the internet. This being said, over 60% of the world’s population (roughly 4 billion people) do not access the internet in any way, shape, or form on a regular basis. The leading technology companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) recognize that bringing these 4 billion people “out of the dark” would not only provide immeasurable social benefits, but would also present billions of dollars in untapped revenue for these companies.
These aforementioned technology companies, namely Google and Facebook, are investing millions of dollars in research and development in order to connect people via the internet on a global scale. This research has produced intriguing results that has led to a better explanation of the underlying causes for this problem. They have discovered, not surprisingly, that the problem of low connectivity is concentrated mainly in Africa, Southeast Asia, and some areas of the Middle East and Central America. What is more surprising, however, is the fact the largest barrier preventing people from using the internet is the fact that many people do not see any value in using it. Ann Mei Chang, a former senior director of emerging markets at Google, who oversaw much of this research, reported that “There are so many people who could technically access the Web but are not”. After conducting similar research, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “I thought what was necessary to connect everyone was new technology and a change in the economic structure. Instead, it’s all about content and awareness.”
On the development side of things, both Facebook and Google have projects in the pipeline designed to provide internet access to the large number of people who are unable to connect to the internet, even if they wanted to. Among these projects is Google’s Project Loon, which involves the use of high altitude balloons to provide internet connection from the sky. Facebook is working on a similar project, but is attempting to use solar powered drones rather than balloons.
In conclusion, connecting billions of more people to the internet would generate a massive economic gain, but an even greater social gain. It is also clear that connecting these people will not only require new cutting edge technology, but also a proliferation of knowledge and awareness about the internet and its utility.