Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a highly ambitious project aimed at bringing Internet access to the planet's entire population.
Facebook is partnering with six other tech companies, including Nokia and Samsung, to launch the Internet.org initiative that hopes to help connect "the next 5 billion people".
It is estimated that 2.7 billion people currently have access to the Web globally - just over one third of the world's 7.1 billion. Internet adoption is at 9 per cent per year; something that the project hopes to greatly accelerate.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it," said Zuckerberg.
The project will focus on mobile connectivity for logistical reasons and the remaining partners, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera, Qualcomm, as well as Nokia and Samsung, are all mobile and wireless specialists. In the future, NGOs, academics and other experts will also be brought on board.
"For more than 100 years, Ericsson has been enabling communications for all and today more than 6 billion people in the world have access to mobile communications," said Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson.
"We are committed to shaping the Networked Society – where everyone and everything will be connected in real time; creating the freedom, empowerment and opportunity to transform society. We believe affordable connectivity and internet access improves people's lives and helps build a more sustainable planet."
The initiative will focus on three main areas: making access more affordable through bringing down the cost of data and smartphones; developing ways of using data more efficiently so less is needed to connect to the Internet; and helping businesses to create sustainable new models and services that make it easier for people to access the Web.