With over half of the world’s population disconnected from the Internet, mega companies like Google and Facebook have initiated a mission to bring the Internet to over four billion people. This issue brings up the question “Does the entire world need to be connected to the Internet?”. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” from people like Mark Zuckerberg, who insist that the world economy will shift to a “knowledge economy” and that every individual should have Internet access to keep up. So if they’re trying to connect the rest of the world, like Africa and South America, how are they going to do it? Let’s take a look…
Google has launched a project called Project Loon where low-cost balloons will hover over regional areas and broadcast WiFi or WiMax signals to the area. In case you’re wondering, these balloons will not hover at an altitude whereby a kid with a slingshot will be able to knock it out. Google is testing this project in India currently, where rural areas are abundant and tech savvy people are in number too. Low-cost WiFi routers and WiMax devices can easily be installed over villages and cities to accommodate a large number of users. The implications are great, as this could transform healthcare, education, jobs, and entertainment – virtually every sector of human activity in countries like India, Africa, and South America.
While Google is mounting balloons in the air, Facebook has consorted with a number of companies like Ericsson and Samsung to help develop technologies that would see Internet access become more economical by improving data rates and power consumption. A website Internet.org has been setup to promote the cause that would seek to make Internet access affordable for everyone. To do this, the Internet has to become more affordable by cutting it down to 1/10 of today’s average cost. One way of reducing the service cost is to reduce data consumption. This can be done by compressing data and writing more efficient code so that data is cached on the smartphone rather than online. This does bring up a question: If the plan is to cache more data on the user device, then doesn’t that affect the expansion of the cloud by reversing the trend of caching data on the web and instead storing it on the user’s device locally, i.e. e-mail, calendars, documents, etc? This is yet to be determined.
This also begs the question: Does the world really need to be connected? A large portion of Internet frauds come from Africa and if more of Africa was connected we could see a spike in frauds committed over the Internet. There could also be more drug cartels abusing the wireless Internet signal to further drug trafficking in countries like Mexico and Afghanistan. Terrorism could also see a spike as more terrorists gain access to easy Internet to plan and commit violence. A number of scenarios would ensue if the indeed the entire world was to be connected to the Internet.
One answer could be that the positives out weigh the negatives when it comes to global Internet access. Improvements to government, healthcare, and education are outcomes willing to give this push for global Internet a Go!