Internet for All

What does going from three to eight billion connected human beings mean to the global economy? Companies like Facebook (Internet.org), SpaceX, Google (Project Loon) Qualcomm and Virgin (one Web) are in the process of rolling out the connectivity to every human on earth.

They are not rolling it out the way we started either, i.e., with a dial up modem on AOL. Rather, they are providing connectivity to exceed one megabit per second. Imagine when there are more than 5 billion people connected to the internet accessing information on Google, Amazon, artificial intelligence with Watson, cloud, 3D printing and more. Just imagine.

How are they connecting the rest of the world? Through technology, of course…but in ways you may not expect. Project Loon is using a fleet of balloons traveling just inside the edge of space to provide connectivity to remote geographies around the world. “Internet is transmitted up to the nearest balloon from our telecommunications partner on the ground, relayed across the balloon network, and then back down to users on the ground.” The connection speeds are astounding. “Project Loon has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light enough and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km up in the stratosphere. All the equipment is highly energy-efficient and is powered entirely by renewable energy - with solar panels powering daytime. Each balloon has a coverage area of 5,000 square kilometers.”

Internet.org, the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg, is working in the Connectivity Lab to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.  With this connectivity, Facebook launched an offering called Free Basics by Facebook. This provides services to people on their mobile devices where internet access may be very expensive or previously non-existent. Imagine a world in which websites with content, news, employment information, health news, education, weather and local information freely accessibly, without data charges.

So, the next question is what devices can these people use to connect to the internet with? There are many organizations and companies who are trying to get the phones in the hands of people in developing countries. Tata Communications and MasterCard alone donated over 100 million phones to women in developing countries and do not charge for access to calling. Mobile technology has also proven to serve as a lifesaving resource for women in developing countries.

As reported in the Huffington Post, “Pregnant women and new mothers who live in rural areas often face greater health risks because they lack access to medical clinics.

To ensure that pregnant women and new moms are armed with the information they need to protect themselves and their babies, a number of groups have developed mobile platforms that can reach women everywhere and save as many as 800 women a day who die from preventable conditions, Reuters reported in 2013.

One such group is Zero Mothers Die, a mobile program that provides critical maternal, newborn and child health information.”

It has been said that technology has the potential to lift people out of poverty. Like skipping the dial up modem, the next 3-4 billion people to come online will most likely skip land lines and go right to mobile. One example quoting UNICEF Innovation Lab, co-lead Eric Kochi, “Most poor people in the world are subsistence farmers, growing only enough for themselves and their community because getting a surplus to market is too expensive, USAID Pakistan teamed up with local government and a local mobile carrier to create a mobile program that sends peach and potato farmers text or voice messages about crop prices, market access and disease prevention. In Mozambique, USAID is trying to encourage farmers to use mobile money to save during the harvest’s bounty so they can afford fertilizer when the next season starts and maximize their profits. The Grameen Foundation’s e-Warehouse project in Kenya helps small farmers properly store their crops while waiting for prices to hit an optimal level and can also connect them to advances against their crops. In Turkey, Vodafone’s Farmers’ Club combines free information with notifications and a members-only marketplace. The program has grown to more than 900,000 active users.”

You might wonder how people can have mobile access if they don’t even have electricity, and the answer again is technology. Villages are being equipped with solar units that locals can come to and charge their devices. Individual solar panels, as small as a phone itself can save up enough energy to charge a phone from 0-100% with less than one day of sunshine.

So why does it matter to you and me? Well, for one, if the world were better educated, wouldn’t it be great to have more than 5 billion minds tapping into the problems that exist today…from poverty, hunger, clean drinking water and human trafficking to an infinite number of other problems we can’t even imagine? Having all these minds connected gives us more power for finding solutions.  With a rise out of poverty, people are less likely to die prematurely, people out of poverty have less reason to revolt, less reason to fight. When you have a job that you can get paid for, a way to take care of your family and strive for more, you spend less time in the streets fighting with government, terrorist and warring factions, and more time working. 

From a consumer perspective, the more people are raised out of poverty, the more they become consumers. While people begin to see beyond their villages, towns and country borders, there becomes a greater connection with people of the world.

I for one, think that the opportunities that exist by having an Internet for all are limitless. Can you imagine? 

Dawn Tiura, President and CEO, SIG

Dawn Tiura, CEO and President of SIG, SIG University and Outsource, has over 26 years leadership experience, with the past 22 years focused on the sourcing and outsourcing industry. In 2007, Dawn joined SIG as CEO, but has been active in SIG as a speaker and trusted advisor since 1999, bringing the latest developments in sourcing and outsourcing to SIG members. Prior to joining SIG, Dawn held leadership positions as CEO of Denali Group and before that as a partner in a CPA firm. Dawn is actively involved on a number of boards promoting civic, health and children's issues in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Dawn is a licensed CPA and has a BA from the University of Michigan and an MS in taxation from Golden Gate University. Dawn brings to SIG a culture of brainstorming and internal innovation.