The Success Of Internet.org Can Revolutionize Africa

Internet.org is a global partnership between technology leaders, non-profits, local communities and experts who are working together to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world’s population which do not have it. The unfolding reality today is that the internet is fast becoming another commodity one can almost not do without. Not with the kind of access and exposure it gives us, especially in an age like ours, which has been dubbed the information age – the urge to run in real time is very close to inexhaustible.

But even in the face of the statement of fact above, the reality today is that the internet isn’t accessible for two thirds of the world. Just imagine a world where it connects us all, and we had it readily available. How do you think it would look like? Maybe we are finally coming close to a lasting solution, with the emergence of the project. Sharing tools, resources and best practices, Internet.org partners will explore solutions in three major opportunity areas: affordability, efficiency, and business models. Recently, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the project initiative, a partnership that aims to make Internet access available to billions of people worldwide.

According to Internet.org, Partners will invest in tools and software to improve data compression capabilities and make data networks and services run more efficiently.Some critics call it a self-serving project as they feel it would be a huge benefit to companies like Facebook, Nokia and some others who are partners on the project. But looking at it from another angle, the latter sounds like only a decimal of the full picture; imagine the holistic benefits and impact of having great internet connections across the world, especially for emerging economies as we have in Africa. It would mean more work online, a huge boost to educational resource sharing, medical interventions and exchange, fluid communications, cross-continental business collaborations, and a whole lot more. It would definitely bring huge benefits for billions of impoverished people.

Quoting Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk – an online marketplace for hiring virtual workers, “One massive potential impact has been relatively ignored—the impact on work and the ability to bring jobs to people around the world. The Internet has already dramatically improved economic conditions for businesses and workers, and broadening access worldwide will only amplify that impact.” He continues: “In fact, assuming Internet.org successfully extends connectivity to the remaining two-thirds of the world, the world’s workers stand to gain $27.6B of online work by 2022 out of a total potential online work market of $42.5 billion. The bulk of those billions will flow to the developing world, where good, modern jobs are most scarce. ”

The Internet is such an exciting prospect as it removes geographical barriers and allows people to connect and work together regardless of where they live. Inordinately it generates new business opportunities for everyone involved. As in the example of oDesk above, for workers it means they are able to find jobs regardless of where they happen to be, and also get paid a good enough worth for their services, in a kind of global economy. Talk about some professionals in developing countries like Kenya, who now earn more from working online than they ever did while working for local firms. Even for established companies, this would mean that they could easily source the talents they need — especially regarding experts with special skills which may be difficult to find in the locality. With the latter, talent shortages would be an issue of the past, as the world becomes a potential pool from where talents could be recruited with a few clicks.

Talking with a friend the other day, and she told me that while we were still battling with our mobile network providers here and WCDMA connections, her own brother who lives in the UK, said he had just switched from broadband to Fiber and the upload / download speeds were massive. Now tell me why you wouldn’t prefer to store your documents in the cloud, when you know retrieving them for use at any point in time would be without hassles. Imagine if I tried to do that here in Africa now, and my documents got stuck mid-way. If we also had such a fast and efficient connection why wouldn’t I want to stream almost any and everything even to the television signal in my house?

The availability of widespread Internet access would go way beyond tweeting, or merely sharing photos on Facebook or Instagram. It would virtually mean a revolution in the reality of citizens of developing countries and emerging economies, translating into invaluable opportunities. Make no mistake, Google, Facebook and some other such partners stand to reap massive benefits from a better connected world population. But it would eventually turn out a win-win situation with the citizens of the world gaining more value ultimately from the stakes.

 

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