Internet.org is an initiative to bring more people on to internet, championed by Facebook. The idea is to provide billions of people (mostly in developing countries) with affordable internet access.
One of the main criticisms it receives is that people in developing countries don’t need the internet right now, that we should be spending our resources on more pressing needs such as food, fighting poverty, etc.
This is true but only partially.
Unquestionably, lifting people out of poverty & taking care of the two holy triads of food, clothing, shelter and bijli, sadak, paani is a higher priority than giving them internet access.
However, this argument doesn’t fully extend into not growing access to the internet.
To use a business term, the Internet is a horizontal; a technology that stretches across multiple domains and one that is wonderfully transformative.
Thanks to the internet, you can freely access the worlds largest Encyclopedia, search for information any topic, communicate with more than a billion people, use version 1.0 of a flying carpet, have your toughest questions answered, watch the worlds most inspiring videos, entertain yourself; amongst a ton of other things. The internet is so useful that many countries have declared it fundamental human right
As with any technology, when used right, it just makes things better.
We need to fight poverty and other problems, well we can do that faster, better and more efficiently using the internet.
It seems like there’s a notion afloat that progress in the developing world will be a replay of progress in the developed world.
That we need to get out of poverty then get landlines, then smartphones then …
That we should wait for everyone to get out of poverty, before we give them the internet (or send orbiters around Mars).
With more people having access to the internet, developing countries can fight their problems in smarter and innovative ways unheard of before. Broader internet access only complements any other approach to solving those problems. I can scarcely see why this shouldn’t be done.
However, an issue i do have is that the Internet.org app prioritises certain services over others. This is almost fundamentally against what the internet stands for. Though this is just one of the initiatives under Internet.org and it seems like a pragmatic solution, it does take away net neutrality.