The hopes and dreams of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went up in smoke and flames as a SpaceX rocket carrying a $200 million satellite exploded on the launching pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This satellite was an integral part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, which was launched in August 2013. Zuckerberg propelled the initiative in order to provide free internet to the Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and parts of Europe. Facebook teamed up with a French satellite company to launch the Amos-6 satellite. However, its destruction from an unexplained explosion set back the ambitious project.
The rocket in question was the Falcon 9, developed by SpaceX with financial support from NASA. SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk, who is the current CEO of Tesla. This is not the first time the Falcon 9 has caused problems. In June 2015, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station fell apart in flight, leading to a rocket explosion.
These incidents will most likely cause NASA to reconsider its decision to let SpaceX carry astronauts to the ISS. Such missions were scheduled to start at the end of next year.
Despite this recent major setback, Zuckerberg continues to push the initiative to deliver basic connectivity to several locations. He has struck deals with multiple phone companies in order to make certain web services, including Facebook, free.
The Connectivity Lab at Facebook has been experimenting with drones as a potential tool to deliver wireless internet access. The drone program is called “Aquila.” During a trip to the Vatican City, Zuckerberg presented a model of the Aquila drone to Pope Francis, who seemed to be incredibly open to Zuckerberg’s innovative idea to spread internet connectivity across the world.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares the vision of Internet.org. Many do not want Facebook to be the purveyor of free internet access, fearing that Facebook will have too much control over what people can and cannot access. This fear originates from the fact that Facebook is heavily regulating which sites could be accessed through its Free Basics Program. Facebook claims that only websites that meet their criteria can take part in it. Websites such as Wikipedia, BBC, and weather and health reports, for example, made the cut.
This concern has caused some obstructions for the social media titan. In February, local opposition forced India’s telecommunications agency to ban the Free Basics Program in the country. Though India banned it, the program still continues to exist in 36 other nations, connecting more than 19 million people worldwide.
Zuckerberg was undeterred by this concern. In a Facebook post, he conveyed disappointment but maintained his determination to provide internet connectivity to India and the world. The reason for this tenacious determination in the face of explosions or regulations has to be none other than legacy.
Zuckerberg sees this as a chance to link billions of people in untapped markets, which is why he wants to provide them with easy access to online service. This would not only serve Facebook’s business interests but it would also create a more connected world.
David Kirkpatrick, the author of The Facebook Effect, says Zuckerberg is “so determined that this is a matter of personal obsession with him.” More importantly, if his efforts prove successful, it would help create a legacy that Zuckerberg would be proud to leave behind. If this initiative is successful, Zuckerberg could leave his mark on this world for centuries to come.
Everyone in the world should have access to internet. It is both an economic and an educational opportunity. Internet access allows for better communication and coordination during disaster relief efforts, which is an essential tool for saving as many lives as possible.
The initiative might allow the world’s poorest nations to access primary healthcare. Doctors might be able to diagnose diseases from hundreds of miles away. Finally, and most importantly, the internet allows for camaraderie across borders and nationalities, which helps foster a more democratic society on a larger and more ambitious scale.
The Internet.org initiative is an important and ambitious project. Providing internet access to the world has a host of benefits. The internet, since its inception, has changed the world for the better, revolutionized business practices and changed the way we live our life.
As Zuckerberg said, free basic internet access should be as easy as dialing 911. Hopefully his initiatives will be reached without issue in the coming years.