Mark Zuckerberg’s internet.org:
Making the internet available to every person on earth is a goal too large and too important for any one company, group, or government to solve alone. Internet.org’s partners have come together to meet this challenge because they believe in the power of a connected world.
Here, let me rewrite that for you, Zuck:
Making sure that every person on earth is online is an opportunity too important for any e-commerce company. The first world is quickly becoming saturated, and because we provide digital personal information collection services, the whole world should be our market. We want our customers, eh, advertisers to be able to sell to everyone around the world. We can’t sell new targeted personal information to our advertisers if those customers aren’t on Facebook, er, online. We’ve come together to meet this challenge because we believe there’s a huge opportunity to sell connected phones, data, advertising, cute pictures of kittens and puppies, and software. But we can’t do that until everyone is online. Really, it is that important. Wall Street needs to see a road map for growth otherwise we’ll be below our share price will dip below our IPO again. Nobody wants that. Trust me, nobody.
As I said to my friend Apolo this morning, This isn’t altruism. You can’t collect marketing data on 5 billion people if they are not on the internet. It’s capitalism dressed up as philanthropy. Can’t blame the guy for wanting to remove obstacles for the next 5-10 years of his company’s growth — which is measured by user acquisition. The larger the base, the more he can charge for advertising.
It isn’t that the developing world doesn’t have access to the internet, we do. The problem is, we aren’t getting online fast enough. Take for example, Africa’s 1 billion people. According to Internet World Stats, just over 15% of the continent is online. Compared to the projected 1 billion mobile devices soon to be on the continent by 2016, Mark and company are eager to see those devices connected to the internet.
Feature phones are being replaced by cheaper and cheaper smart phones. Africa’s majority first screen to the internet is going to be a mobile device; if not a tablet, the smartphone. Mobile internet subscriptions in Kenya are growing 69% year over year, and outnumber fixed line connections 107:1! Africa’s internet is going to be mobile and mobile-based. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imaging the rest of the developing world is following the same digital leap-frogging strategy.
This is why internet.org’s coalition of partners include the heavy hitters with a stake in the growth of mobile devices. What’s curious about this coalition to me is that it is a response to Google’s multi-pronged (internet hot air balloons? Really, Larry!!?) efforts to provide access to emerging markets.
If this truly was philanthropy, all these players would get behind one initiative. Google & Facebook are competing for the same growth pie. The good thing is, there are no losers in this race. The winners are the consumers in these emerging markets. If these two tech giants can manage to push the price of access down, everyone wins.