Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he's OK with losing money on Internet.org, that the company could pick up another 1 billion users by 2020 and he would consider working with Google to extend Internet connectivity around the world.
In an interview on Bloomberg Television's Studio 1.0 scheduled to air tonight, (The episode will be live streamed at 8:30 ET), Zuckerberg addressed Facebook's efforts to bring the Internet to the two-thirds of the world's population not yet connected.
"When people are connected, we can just do some great things," Zuckerberg said. "There are all these studies that show that in developing countries, more than 20% of GDP growth is driven by the Internet. There have been studies that show if we connected a billion more people to the Internet, 100 million more jobs would be created, and more than that would be lifted out of poverty."
Internet connectivity should be a right and not a privilege, he said.
"The Internet is how we connect to the modern world, but today, unfortunately, only a little more than a third of people have access to the Internet at all," he told Bloomberg. "Connectivity just can't be a privilege for people in the richest countries. We believe that connecting everyone in the world is one of the great challenges of our generation, and that's why we are happy to play whatever small part in that that we can."
While connecting billions more people to the Internet would affect worldwide education, communication and economics, it also would bring more people into Facebook's user base.
When asked if Facebook could double its user base by adding another billion people by 2020, Zuckerberg responded, "We'll see. I think so."
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said expanding Internet connectivity around the world would be key to making that happen for what is already the world's largest social network.
"More connectivity is very important — more for Facebook than for anyone else," Gottheil told Computerworld. "The more people connected, the more valuable Facebook is. Don't you think people from Indonesia, the Philippines, Zambia, or Kenya who have moved to developed countries will use Facebook more if they can connect with people back home?"
So how does Facebook plan on making that happen? Like Google, Facebook is looking for new technologies that will bring connectivity to remote and impoverished areas of the world.
The project includes developing inexpensive smartphones, enhancing network capabilities and creating new connectivity services, and Zuckeberg conceded "we'll probably lose a bunch of money."
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