Have we reached that point where Internet access is no longer considered as a luxury but rather as a necessity?
Today Facebook Inc. brought us one step closer to making universal Internet access a reality. The social media giant has teamed up with French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications SA to bring the web to 14 sub-Saharan African countries next year. These are countries where access to the information highway is hampered due to lack of infrastructure and resources.
To bring internet connectivity to these countries, the Amos-6 satellite (built by Spacecom) will be utilized. The satellites entire broadband payload will be used for the initiative. It’s expected to be launched in 2016. Countries such as South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya are expected to be covered in the initial phase, with more expanded access to nearby countries following soon.
Satellite networks are well suited to economically connecting people in low- to medium-density population areas.
This measure is keeping in line with Facebook’s efforts to bring internet access to developing countries where there’s none. The company has taken many steps as part of its Internet.org initiative to make universal internet access a plank of its social responsibility. It is estimated that 1.1 to 2.8 billion people lack internet access currently.
It is estimated that 1.1 to 2.8 billion people lack internet access currently.
Facebook is even developing and testing a solar-powered drone dubbed Aquilla that can fly for 3 months without landing, beaming connectivity signals from 60,000 to 90,000 feet in daytime. If this wasn’t enough, previously the company was also thinking of getting some hot-air balloons to provide 24/7 connectivity in areas with no internet.
Chris Daniels, Internet.org vice president, said:
Facebook’s mission is to connect the world, and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa.
The Internet.org initiative is not without its fair share of detractors. In Indonesia and India, Internet.org is being scrutinized for what consumer advocacy groups say ‘too much control is in the hands of Facebook’. Since the apps that can access the Internet.org project are developed and maintained by the social network giant itself, the concerns on part of consumer groups merit further response.
Politics aside, this initiative is expected to transform the world and reduce the inequality barriers between the haves and have-nots. The Internet is viable technological tool that has made physical borders almost irrelevant. Water, food, housing and employment are considered some of the necessities since time immemorial but as we’ve seen with time, what was once a luxury, becomes a necessity as time goes by.
Today internet access is at the heart of the ‘necessity vs luxury’ debate. And Facebook, along with Google and other tech companies as well as startups, are working towards making us come on step closer towards a Jetsons-styled society.