So the MWC is on folks and the event is witnessing a bunch of very interesting talks from some of the most prominent people in the tech industry. Along the same line, we had none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talk about stuff close to his heart, including the recently scrapped Free Basics program from India.
The talk took place at the Mobile World Congress with Mark Zuckerberg frankly speaking his views on a variety of topics. The talk mainly revolved around Facebook’s connectivity mission, and moved on to cover virtual reality, 5G and the company’s overtures in the mobile market as well.
Addressing the barbed questions about Facebooks internet.org project, that seeks to connect people across the world but is being called opportunistic by the more cynical, Zuckerberg said,
“We don’t need to have people care about it we care about it. We believe that everyone should have access to the Internet, and it’s kind of crazy that we’re sitting here and 4 billion people in the world don’t.”
The internet.org’s ambitious Free Basics program was recently trashed by the TRAI in India. However, its doing pretty well everywhere else and has initiated programs in association with local mobile carriers in almost 38 countries.
However, Facebook is not losing hope — far from it — and is already working upon discovering additional ways of delivering connectivity to underdeveloped regions. Speaking about his internet delivering drones, Zuckerberg said,
“It will have the wingspan of a 747 but weighs as much as a car, very light. And the other piece is a laser comms system twelve times faster to beam down access. With a laser you can get higher bandwidth.”
Adding that the company will launch its first satellite, this very year.
Speaking about India, Zuckerberg noted that the ambitious free basic program that sought to connect users to the basic internet facilities, had run into issues, perhaps in part because of its tie up with specific operators and services.
“We want to work with all the operators there.”
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is actually considering hotpots as the next thing for connecting the masses to the Internet and has set its eyesights upon creating over a thousand hotspots in the country as the next phase of its plan.
On the claims that internet.org was another way for Facebook to generate revenue — albeit in a roundabout manner — he said,
“I think that a lot of people think that companies just care a lot about making money. I built Facebook because I wanted to connect people at college. I never thought we would make money.”
Zuckerberg also reiterated his company’s decision to back Apple, in its battle against government authorities over providing law enforcement a back door to its devices. However, he did say that Facebook would work if the government when needed, to root out terrorism.
“At the same time, we feel like we have a pretty big responsibility running his big network and community — to help prevent terrorism and different kinds of attacks — and we have strong policies on this. […] If we have the opportunity to basically work with government folks to make sure there aren’t going to be terrorist attacks, we’ll do that.”
However, at the same side, he also said that backdoors weren’t quite the right thing to do. So the Facebook CEO, while agreeing to his responsibility in preventing terror also expressed his unwillingness to create tunnels for the law to sneak in through.
Speaking about video and Facebook, he said,
“One of the things we see online is that as people share more and more, there is increasing pressure to do well,” Zuckerberg said. “In 2016, if you are sharing a photo, you want it to be a good photo. What’s powerful about messaging platforms like Messenger and WhatsApp — and now video, too — is that it gives people a more intimate environment — and raw environment.”
Finally, the Facebook CEO talked about the pace of development from the rest of the industry and how he wasn’t particularly pleased with it. While agreeing that yes, iOT was great, he was downright skeptical of its role in pulling unprivileged people to the Internet.
“It’s disappointing, this idea that 4G was about a good experience and 5G is about things. That’s important; making sure devices are connected is good, but … we’ll be sitting here in 2020 and instead of just 4 billion offline there will still be 3 billion…. I hope the folks here will focus on both priorities, bandwidth and but also making sure people finish this job and people have access.”
Hence the variety of programs from Facebook, to get those 3 Billion on the Internet — and if it does gain Facebook a few hundred million users too, well what of it? The company is pretty serious about the whole ‘bringing them to the net thing’ — whether because of Philanthropic reasons or otherwise — and although it’s free Basics got told off by the Indian Government, is far from giving up, in India or elsewhere.
In fact, reading between the lines, Facebook may beeven thinking about improving and reintroducing Free Basics, or even something completely different — such as its drones or even local wifi hotspots — to bring connectivity to a significant chunk of the 3 Billion it wants to bring online.