LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – DIGITAL SOCIETIES, BANGKOK: Facebook argued deploying internet access to the first half of the world was easier than it will be for the next half despite access to leapfrog technologies, making new policy initiatives from governments and industry partnerships vital to accelerating progress.
Tom Varghese, manager of connectivity and access policy for APAC at Facebook (pictured), noted around 3.8 billion people worldwide are not connected to the internet, with a complex list of reasons why they aren’t online: “it’s about access, affordability, relevancy of content and people feeling confident to use the services”.
“A positive trend we’re seeing is the thinking around the role of the policy maker is changing to be more focused around enabling the supply side of the infrastructure,” he said. “We need to have more conversations about the corresponding policies.”
He cautioned this is too big of a challenge for one organisation to work on by themselves.
Supporting Facebook’s core mission to help people build communities, it is involved in a range of initiatives and partnerships to expand connectively to bring more people online at faster speeds: “Everything we do happens as part of partnerships with mobile operators, ISPs, governments”, he explained.
The connectivity problems, of course, depend on where people are, he said, noting in rural areas access to fibre backhaul is often a major challenge. While many governments are investing in a variety of projects to address this need “there remains a lack of investment related to viable business models and sufficient competition.”
It is looking to invest in shared backhaul projects “with the right partners if there is a framework that allows capacity to be used by anyone who is interested”, he said.
Facebook has done this in Uganda with Airtel and is looking to scale the set up with a partner.
The underlying principle of a digital identity is universal access, but he lamented that while “we’re seeing an explosion of rich digital services which create a lot of value for those already connected, there is a corresponding opportunity loss for people who are unconnected and probably would benefit the most from access to these services”.
Meanwhile, Facebook announced today it will open is first data centre in Asia in 2022, investing $1 billion in a Singapore facility.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back