The world is not wired -- at least, not yet. Governments and businesses must take more responsibility and better address Internet access in areas of poverty, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and U2 singer Bono urged Saturday as the businessman and the entertainer announced their “Connectivity Declaration.”
The campaign, a part of Bono’s antipoverty ONE Foundation, emphasizes that Internet access is necessary for alleviating poverty and spurring development worldwide. The mission, laid out in a New York Times editorial, urges governments to follow initiatives that prioritize energy investments and Internet access, as well as calls for the tech industry to do more to act on global issues like education, health care and the refugee crisis.
“Where governments lay the foundation, the private sector can build,” Zuckerberg and Bono wrote in the editorial. “Silicon Valley should look beyond itself … We challenge the tech industry to do far more for those most marginalized, those trapped in poverty and those beyond or on the edge of the network.”
Facebook’s CEO had flown into New York Saturday to address the United Nations -- twice. Zuckerberg delivered the keynote address at the U.N. Private Sector Forum, where Bono was the closing speaker, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit. Both of these events were a part of the 70th annual U.N. General Assembly this week.
The editorial emphasized one goal of the U.N.’s recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which highlights a commitment to worldwide Internet connectivity by 2020. “The Internet should not belong to only 3 billion people as it does today. It should be seen as a necessity for development and a tool that makes larger things possible,” Zuckerberg said to the U.N., according to USA Today.
The endeavor is part of Zuckerberg’s commitment to be a global leader in connecting the world. Zuckerberg was among the industry heads who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the China-U.S. tech summit in Seattle Tuesday and Wednesday. Facebook is currently banned in China. On Sunday, Zuckerberg will host India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
As a company, Facebook has also led an initiative and created several products to improve Internet access. In 2013, Zuckerberg launched Internet.org with the goal of equal access and increased connectivity. The initiative includes a lightweight mobile app that’s available in 18 countries and was renamed to Free Basics Thursday.
“[Facebook] really is a technology company with this mission to connect everyone and a social networking service that rides on top of this technology,” Facebook’s top engineer, Jay Parikh, told International Business Times this week.
Zuckerberg and Bono highlighted other tech companies' commitments to poverty alleviation and education, including the Intel Foundation, Microsoft’s Millennium Development Goals and Google’s Project Loon. The NYTimes editorial noted several ways smartphones have improved access to financial services, as well as social media contributing to changing “not just popular opinion but public policy.”
The campaign gained attention at Saturday’s Global Citizen music festival in New York’s Central Park, where a prerecorded message from Zuckerberg aired and Bono was in attendance. “Tonight is a part of something really important. We are not a generation of bystanders; we are all global citizens. Let’s go connect the world,” Zuckerberg said.
The declaration was also signed by Bill and Melinda Gates, Stephen Hawking, Mo Ibrahim, Charlize Theron, Richard Branson, Jimmy Wales and Arianna Huffington.