Social networking giant Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg, who is in India on a two-day visit, on Thursday said basic internet access should be made available to all without a telecom plan.
The young billionaire, who is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday, said, “Even if you have not bought a phone plan, you always access help if there is a medical emergency, crime or a fire or something else that you need help with,” adding that Facebook is working on a few basic services on the net without a telecom plan.
Zuckerberg, who was speaking to a select group of media persons at the inauguration of Internet.org summit in New Delhi, said, “Connectivity can’t be restricted to the rich and powerful. Cost of internet access has to be made affordable.”
Zuckerberg said he is keen to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, adding that the PM is focused on connecting villages to internet. “I am excited to see how Facebook can help,” he said.
He also announced that Facebook is creating a fund worth $1 million to motivate developers to come up with apps for farmers and women.
Zuckerberg launched internet.org which was announced in August last year and targets to bring internet connectivity to the two-thirds of the global population that is not connected.
The founding members of internet.org are Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.
“We want to help build an internet that works for everyone,” he said.
Here are highlights from what Zuckerberg said on the first day of his India visit:
— Basic internet should be made available for all without a data plan.
— The whole world is robbed of creativity and innovative ideas because a lot many people in India are not online.
— It is important to enable the next five billion people without internet access to come online.
— Merely lowering data cost by telecom operators won’t help and is not a solution. Mobile operators invest a lot of money; lowering costs is not easy. Infrastructure is the biggest barrier to internet, followed by technical issues. Language barriers too are huge impediments to the internet.
— Plans to develop lower-cost and better quality smartphones are underway.
— Twenty-five per cent fewer women are connected to internet compared with men; 80 per cent of content on the Internet are just in 10 languages, while there are 22 official languages in India; 65 per cent of people use Facebook in a language other than English, including 10 Indian languages.
— Lack of relevant local language content is why most Indians don’t use internet. Facebook is working in rural India to improve internet connectivity.
— When people are connected, accomplishments are easy.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)