ERICSSON BUSINESS INNOVATION FORUM, TOKYO: Facebook’s high-profile efforts to connect the five billion people around the world currently without access to the Internet look likely to depend on mobile operators agreeing to reduce prices for services.
That was the key takeaway from a presentation this morning by Facebook Japan’s Taro Kodama (pictured). Responsible for the social network’s business in the country, Kodama outlined Facebook’s internet.org initiative, announced in August and designed to bring connectivity to the two-thirds of the world’s population lacking online access.
At the time of the launch Facebook talked up the “central role” mobile operators will play in the initiative. At today’s event Kodama stressed the importance of making access to the internet – particularly via mobile – more affordable.
“The internet hasn’t penetrated around the world as devices are too expensive, data costs are expensive, and the connectivity network is not global,” he commented. Kodama urged the wider telecom industry to ensure devices are “affordable” and to work together to make data usage more efficient and therefore more cost-effective. For example, he suggested operators could prioritise what type of content to download when a user visits an online site or accesses a service, in order to enable the user to pay only for the content they really need.
“Data is very expensive and people want to use Facebook but of course they have to buy food and water first,” he added. “Internet.org is something that gives people opportunity.”
Kodama recognised the initiative has much work to do, especially as specific details around the project have yet to be revealed from any of the participating companies. “We have completed 1 per cent of our journey,” he said. “We have a long way to go and we need to work with partners to help spread word of the internet.”
Kodama was talking at Ericsson’s annual media roadshow, and the Swedish network vendor is also a partner in the internet.org initiative.