Mark Zuckerberg Plans To Connect Refugee Camps Via The Internet

Mark Zuckerberg has built a powerhouse in the form of Facebook which has both revolutionized the notion of a social network for consumers and also provided a platform for discussion and quick responses to world events. The recent statements from the famous CEO, who always seems to clad himself in the same coloured T-shirt, have included phrases concerning the Internet being “a force for peace” and “an enabler of human rights”, has announced that his company would offer its assistance to the United Nations with the aim of supplying internet connections to refugee camps.

Mr Zuckerberg responded to suggestions that Facebook are aiming to offer this service with the knowledge and expectation of drawing new consumers to the company’s platform by stating that it’s “not all altruism”. This, according to Wikipedia is defined as the “principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others”. Facebook have yet to firmly state how and when they would be offering their assistance to refugee camps, or indeed how the internet connections would work.

This has coincided with a petition which Mr Zuckerberg has created with the entertainer Bono, the philanthropist Mo Ibrahim and others to expand connectivity, calling internet access “essential” to achieving the development goals. This is all well and good, but there has yet to be clarification on the subject of net neutrality or internet censorship.

I have a feeling this gesture is being driven in its entirety by share price and company growth, Facebook wants to break into developing markets and are viewing the current displacement of people as a business opportunity. Mr Zuckerberg believes “We all benefit when we are more connected.” Indeed, so do the advertisers and corporations. There is also another issue which I can think of, if these refugee camps are connected via the Internet, surely this would make them easier to be tracked or hacked into by governments, your average Joe Militia or terrorist organisations.

It will be interesting to track, see what I did there, the progress and potential outcomes of these projects on the wider world.

Thank you nytimes for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of bnr.nl

Internet.Org, What Is It And Whats Happening?

Internet.org has been in the online news a lot recently, but what is it and why is it in the news?

Internet.org is a scheme created by Facebooks Founder Mark Zuckerberg, the aim of which is to provide free internet access to several countries, hopefully reaching at least 5 billion people who currently don’t have access to it. Currently offering free mobile internet access to people in India, Zambia, Colombia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In order to access the free internet, however, users must use either facebook’s Android app, the Opera Mini web browser, Internet.org’s website or special Android Apps. This in conjunction with the limited number of sites that were available through the services, including Facebook, Wikipedia and BBC news, #and the Facts for Life health site run by the United Nations Children’s Fund among the initial 38 accessible websites. This limitation caused several companies to doubt the scheme and even pull out as it was seen in conflict with the concept of “Net Neutrality”, a phrase that has been used a lot in recent days to describe the concept that all internet traffic is equal and all sites are equal, so charging extra or forcing users to use certain sites would be against the concept (one which Tim Berners-Lee, regarded as one of the founders of the internet has spoke up about).

The scheme was recently opened up allowing for developers to join the Internet.org Platform and create their websites and services to be run through the Internet.org scheme. These do come with limitations though:

  • Websites must not be data heavy – this means that websites which use a lot of high-quality images, videos or real-time voice and video chat based systems are banned from the scheme.
  • Websites must be able to run on both high-end and low-end smartphones – to allow this, certain web-based products and services are banned. Javascript and Flash Files being amongst the banned content.
  • No Encrypted connections – Currently the Internet.org platform does not support HTTPS (SSL/TLS), the systems used to guarantee a secure connection with a certain connection such as Outlook or your bank’s website. This is due to the web traffic currently going through internet.org’s proxy servers, meaning that all services currently utilizing encryption are rejected from the scheme.

In regards to the last limitation, Zuckerberg has stated that they need to do some work on the service to allow HTTPS and SSL to work on all phones and browsers, so it will be available soon.

In an online video announcing the platform, Zuckerberg talked about the principle of Net Neutrality and stated that,

“Its not sustainable to offer the whole internet for free though. It costs tens of billions of dollars every year to run the internet and no operator could afford this if everything were free.

But it is sustainable to build free basic services, that are simpler, use less data and work on all low end phones. “

Zuckerberg goes on to explain that the Internet.org version of Facebook removed images and videos in order to use less data and work on low-end phones.

So what do you think? It’s good that the internet is being brought to many who would otherwise be able to afford and access it but does the concept of Net Neutrality conflict with how the scheme works? Should Net Neutrality exist and if so should there be a limit?

Information Courtesy of The Register and Hacker news.