One of the biggest challenges for Facebook today is to bring the next billion users from the emerging markets on to its social network. But infrastructure is the biggest challenge in the emerging countries and hence has been the inception of the project Internet.org that promises to bring internet to two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it.
Working in the same direction, Facebook has tied up with FMCG giant Unilever for the Internet.org project. As part of the tie-up Internet.org and Unilever will carry out a comprehensive study to examine the opportunities to increase Internet adoption in rural communities. Apart from infrastructure and cost, which are known barriers to connectivity, the partnership will carefully evaluate other educational and cultural factors that also limit Internet use.
Both Unilever and Internet.org will leverage this research to inform the development of a series of on-the-ground projects with the aim of improving lives in rural India through better connectivity.
Facebook believes that today Internet not only works as a connecting factor but is also a way to deliver basic financial services, health and educational tools. In partnering with Uniliver, which has had a long experience of serving the rural Indian communities, Facebook hopes to break down the barriers to access and, in turn, provide millions of people with the information that can help them.
In fact during the recent acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion, Mark Zuckerberg the Founder had informed that the messaging app at some point will fuel the ambitions of the Internet.org project. Simultaneously, the social networking giant has also been quietly working on its ‘Lighter’ Facebook for the developing market which has a dominance of feature phones.
Last year it announced that there are now more than 100 million people using the technology and getting accustomed to the world of social networks. The app that enables people around the globe to connect to the people on Facebook without having to purchase a smartphone, has seen acceptance from markets like India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
With this new tie up with Unilever, Facebook is trying to expand its reach in a country where the social network has more than 93 million users and at the same time where only 13 percent of the population has access to Internet. Though it is not clear if the numbers also include internet access via mobile.
Along with the Unilever association in India, Facebook has also unveiled a number of new projects: an education partnership with Nokia and local carrier Airtel, edX and the government in Rwanda called SocialEDU; and a new Internet.org Innovation Lab with Ericsson in its Menlo Park HQ.
The efforts being made by Facebook to connect the entire world is remarkable. Reports have suggested that the Internet.org project has wider benefits for emerging markets such as generating $2.2 trillion more in GDP and 140 million new jobs.
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