Over the last several years, tech giants have been deemed ‘too powerful’, in some cases even being likened to tyrants on a mission to take over the world. And, while – yes – companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook have, in their dominance in the market, challenged current definitions of privacy, and collected mass amounts of users’ personal data, they’re doing a lot of good with their technology, too.
This is especially the case in the most remote parts of the world.
Internet Usage Around the World
While it may seem the digital revolution has reached every corner of the globe, that simply isn’t the case. Countries in Asia, North America, and Europe tend to be the most connected, while countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Caribbean tend to be the least. That means that billions (yes, billions) of people in remote, isolated, and underdeveloped parts of the world are cut off from world news, are missing economic opportunities, and are limited in their educations. These consequences, then, create larger social inequalities and pull these nations even further behind.
The problem, of course, is that they’re cut off and are falling behind precisely because they’re in the most remote areas.
In the western world, connecting to the internet is generally seamless and people don’t consider the complex processes involved. But, in order to connect, you need – at the most basic level – a computer, a modem,a robust network of transmission cables, and software. This can be an incredible challenge when you live in a village far away from a power supply, without a telephone line, and out of reach of wireless signals.
How Close are We to Internet Access For All?
Fortunately, today, it’s no longer a question of if internet access for all is possible, but rather when it will happen, and which tech company will finish first. And, with the launch of Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 in 2018 and 60 more satellites having been the race is well and truly on.
There are several players in the global internet arena, all sharing the same goal: to connect the world – even rural areas in the developing world – at high speeds in order to increase communication between continents without the need for any expensive local infrastructure.
As mentioned, Elon Musk is leading pack, having gotten permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to place 12,000 satellites at varying altitudes above earth’s surface as a part of a plan called Starlink.
Google X’s Project Loon isn’t far behind, although their plan involves solar-powered balloons that would float around the stratosphere. The goal to connect the poorest parts of the world is explicitly a part of their mission which, for them, means tapping into a new market. Nonetheless, for the inhabitants of the area, it means cell phone service and internet access.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook is gunning for first place, too. But, instead of satellites or balloons, they’re exploring the possibility of solar-powered, unmanned drones. These drones would beam Wifi down to specified areas and, with a goal that each drone will be capable of covering a 60-mile radius, the impact could be far-reaching.
While it’s impossible to predict how exactly the world will become connected and there are a number of issues to solve regarding online boarders, the possibility of internet access suggests that global economic growth and prosperity could be on the horizon.