Rock star Bono and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have joined forces to bring the Internet to every corner of the globe. In a co-authored op-ed for the New Yorker entitled ‘To Unite The Earth, Connect It’, this ultimate odd couple asserts its commitment to helping the UN achieve its goal of connecting the entire developing world by 2020.
“Today over half the people on this planet don’t have access,” they state in the article. “That is not good for anyone — not for the disempowered and disconnected, and not for the other half, whose commerce and security depend on having stable societies… In this century, global development and global connectivity are closely linked. If you want to help people feed, heal, educate and employ themselves around the world, we need to connect the world as well. The Internet should not belong to only three billion people, as it does today. It should be seen as a necessity for development, and a tool that makes larger things possible.”
Bono and Zuckerberg also point out that 9 out of 10 people across the entire continent of Africa currently don’t have access to electricity, a major roadblock both to their mission and to wider economic growth.
Zuckerberg has, of course, been working for some time to connect developing countries through Internet.org, Facebook’s partnership with Reliance Communications. But while Internet.org is largely perceived as an altruistic endeavour, it is not without its critics; many in India and Indonesia believe it is inherently anti-net neutrality, to the extent that a number of local companies have withdrawn their presence from the platform.
Forbes writer Tim Worstall disagrees with these protestors, and believes that “insisting that people have access to nothing rather than something is absurd.” He makes the argument that the long-term, broader benefits of Internet.org and related projects to India’s infrastructure and economy are certain to outweigh any short-term misgivings with regards to net neutrality.
Bono and Zuckerberg themselves seem equally concerned with what is fair and right, and their piece ends with a call to arms for the tech entrepreneurs and investors of the western world: “Silicon Valley should look beyond itself and act more on issues like education, health care and the refugee crisis. We challenge the tech industry to do far more for those most marginalised, those trapped in poverty, and those beyond or on the edge of the network.”