Google aims to bring affordable Internet to poor countries

3.12.2013 Roberto Arduous
Only about 16% of the entire population of Africa is currently using the Internet. That number is twice higher in the continent of Asia and the Pacific, but even that is nowhere near the market share of the United States and Europe. There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about whether the access to the Web should be considered an unalienable human right, protected by the constitution and enforced by the law. If we take a look at the empirical evidence, there does seem to be an undeniable link between the states with no access to the Internet or the one limited by their government, and the country’s track record of human rights and a financial despair. Also, the impact of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook in the organization of the Arab Spring is quite impossible to dispute.

For all these reasons, but probably also because it makes for a sound business decision, Google is backing a project that aims to slash the cost of Internet around the world, probably starting with the struggling African nations. A fixed Internet connection in the developing world may cost a family as much as a third of their monthly income, leaving countless children without the ability of educating themselves online, and the older members of the household without both the window to the world, and a larger chance at an employment. The project is called Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI for short) and other than Google, its global sponsors include US and UK aid, as well as Omidyar Network. But many private companies are at least partially backing the initiative as well: Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo have all pledged to help achieve the project’s intended mission.

Also, not to sound cynical and doubt all of these global actors’ sense of altruism, but if the project is in fact successful, it’s not too hard to figure out how that might benefit companies like Google or Facebook. Even if these people that are only now being introduced to the Web plan to make no purchases on these sites whatsoever, just the fact that there’ll be a heavier traffic caused by a new user influx means new cash flow for the Web giants, primarily via ads and a higher value of stock. But hey, if the World is a better and a more interconnected place as a result, does it even matter what the motives of these companies are? At the very least will a new generation of kids be able to recognize this moral fallacy via the education they receive online: the education they may have not been able to get otherwise.

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