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Meet the 5 Companies Aiming to Bring the Web to 4.3 Billion New People

Meet the 5 Companies Aiming to Bring the Web to 4.3 Billion New People

Meet the 5 Companies Aiming to Bring the Web to 4.3 Billion New People

Infographic sponsored by: Datawind

The internet is an essential part of our daily lives, but it is actually only used by a minority of the world’s population. 4.3 billion people across the world do not yet have access to the web.

In fact, there are seven countries where more than 100 million people are not yet connected: Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, India, and Indonesia.

Internet penetration in developed countries such as the United States and Canada is high, averaging about 74%. However, in some of the world’s most populous regions, only about one in five people have access.

In the coming decades, we will see a great revolution as billions of new people get instant access to knowledge, tools, communication, and opportunities for the first time. A study by Deloitte concludes that bringing internet access to developing countries could boost productivity worldwide by 25%, generate $2.2 trillion in GDP, create 140 million new jobs, and lift 160 million people out of poverty.

The Challenge

With many of the world’s brightest minds and entrepreneurs not yet connected to the web, it remains to be seen what new world-shaping technologies and companies will be born.

However, connecting 4.3 billion people to the grid is no easy feat. Many people with no internet access live in remote areas without infrastructure or even reliable water or power. Solving these issues creates one of the largest and most challenging business opportunities the world has seen.

To succeed, companies must be bold, while thinking bigger and outside of the box. Here are the companies and technologies that will further connect our world:

Big Tech

In 2014, Facebook made $4.8 billion from online ad revenue and Google made $19.1 billion. Together, that comprises 50% of all online ad revenues.

If the worldwide audience for their services grows, that means a much bigger target audience for their services. As a result, both companies have been making big investments to build their networks.

Google is aiming to cover the sky with floating celltowers and solar-powered drones. Project Loon, officially launched as a Google project in 2013, aims to send thousands of high-flying hot air balloons 10-20km into the stratosphere to broadcast internet to the ground over remote areas. The balloons use algorithms to read wind currents and navigate the globe, all while beaming down an internet signal.

Google has broken its own records for flight duration, having a balloon that lasted 187 days in the air, circumnavigating the globe nine times and passing over more than a dozen countries on four continents along the way.

Google also outbid Facebook for Titan Aerospace in 2014 for $60 million. Titan builds the world’s biggest solar powered drones. These can also broadcast internet to the ground, and are described by Google as “exactly where Project Loon was two years ago in development.”

Facebook is also experimenting with satellites and drones. However, the bulk of its operations to expand the internet’s reach are through its newly formed Internet.org initiative founded in 2013. Partnering with telecoms and mobile operators like Microsoft and Samsung, Internet.org has launched apps in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia, Ghana, and India.

Internet.org provides free access to basic internet services since it is the cost of data is one of the biggest challenges for people to absorb in developing countries. However, Facebook has been criticized for Internet.org because of the practice of zero-rating. Making some services free while having others cost money is at the heart of the debate on net neutrality.

Innovative Technology

Aside from Big Tech, there are other companies taking big steps to bringing the internet to the rest of the planet.

While most of the developed world accesses internet through broadband, the cost of building the infrastructure for such networks make it a less feasible endeavour for most remote regions. That is why 90% of the world does not have fixed broadband access.

Even if it existed, the cost of broadband is very expensive for people in developing countries, costing 27% of monthly gross income on average. However, Datawind has found another way to tackle the problem. Datawind has developed proprietary technology to reduce the amount of data being transmitted over cellular networks by approximately 20X on average.

This allows them to provide internet access to the 93% of the world that does have mobile access mostly through 2G coverage. By turning 1MB of data into 0.05MB and pairing this service with building some of the world’s cheapest tablets and smartphones, Datawind is able to bring internet browsing costs to as low as $0.70 per month.

O3b Networks, backed by Google and HSBC, is solving the traditional problem with satellite networks: latency.

The company has a growing constellation of satellites that orbit the Earth at 8,000km, about 4X closer than traditional geosynchronous satellites. The resulting signal provides internet speeds that rival fiberoptic networks.

BRCK, designed an prototyped in Kenya, is a rugged and portable hotspot that can broadcast WIFI or a cell signal via multiple networks. BRCK has its own power source and can be recharged via solar power. The battery lasts for eight hours in full power mode in the case of blackouts, a common problem in Africa and the developing world.

Conclusion

The internet impacts nearly every aspect of modern society and serves as a powerful economic stimulator. The opportunity to connect 4.3 billion people to the internet is not only a business opportunity, but one that will improve everyone’s standard of living.

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  • Jwk

    SpaceX (read Elon Musk) is also on this path.

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