Nobody can ignore Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona. He stole the show to appear all through unannounced on stage during the presentation of the new Samsung smartphones
It looked like the cynical question ’isn’t internet.org just a way to get more people on Facebook so Zuckerberg can earn more money on ads?’ hurt him. He repeated that he really wants that everyone on earth has access to internet.
N. Peter Kramer
There he predicted that virtual reality is the social networking in the future.
He defended the Facebook initiative internet.org, launched three years ago, to connect the world’s population. He warned not to overlook the task of connecting some four billion people that still don’t have access to the web. Free Basics, as the internet.org service is called, offers users free access to a certain range of data services –including the social network- but not the full internet. Much to delight of ardent net neutrality supporters who felt Free Basics and its use of zero rating unfairly manipulated internet usage.
However, significant progress has been made, insisted Zuckerberg, despite a major setback in India where Free Basics was banned by the national telecom regulator, because the free internet service is harming for local commercial initiatives. Zuckerberg doesn’t want to change the Free Basics model. ‘Every country is different’, pointing out that Free basics was still available in 38 countries and that it was responsible for attracting 19 million more people to the internet who didn’t have access before. The Facebook chief told the audience about realising internet access via solar-powered satellites, ‘the first satellite is in the sky above Africa’, he said.
It looked like the cynical question ’isn’t internet.org just a way to get more people on Facebook so Zuckerberg can earn more money on ads?’ hurt him. He repeated that he really wants that everyone on earth has access to internet. He told that aside from Free Basics there are more aspects of Internet.org. He would like to cooperate with operators and other ecosystem players to lower infrastructure costs for expanding internet access into difficult to reach places. This, he suggested, might feed into lower data prices for consumers.
Warning for the 5G industry
Under questioning the Facebook CEO expressed ‘disappointment’ that the 5G industry focus was on connecting things (‘IoT’) rather than the unconnected, and there was a danger of just providing ‘faster connections’ for rich people. If that trend continued, argued Zuckerberg, there was a likelihood of making only a small dent in the unconnected number of people. ‘We need to finish the job of internet access for all’, he said.