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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to get all of the world's 7 billion people online through a partnership with some of the largest mobile technology companies. He says the Web is an essential part of life, and everyone deserves to be connected, whether they live in Norway, Nicaragua or Namibia.
"The Internet not only connects us to our friends, families and communities, but it is also the foundation of the global knowledge economy,'' Zuckerberg wrote in a paper posted to his Facebook page late Tuesday. The title asks "Is Connectivity A Human Right?''
Of course, connecting more people to the Internet is the kind of philanthropy that would create more potential Facebook users, which would also help boost the company's bottom line.
"There's nothing wrong with that,'' said Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson, author of "New New Media.''
"I think it is actually a profoundly important human right in the 21st century to have access to the Internet.''
To get there, Facebook Inc. on Wednesday announced a partnership called Internet.org. It includes the world's biggest social network, plus Korean electronics giant Samsung, Finnish handset maker Nokia and wireless chip maker Qualcomm Inc. More companies are expected to join.
Google Inc., which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the effort launched Internet-beaming antennas aloft on giant helium balloons.
Facebook said the group's goal is to "make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected'' – about 5 billion people.
According to research group Internet World Stats, about 16 percent of Africa's population is online, compared with 28 percent in Asia, 43 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 79 percent in North America.
Levinson called the venture "profoundly humanistic, while adding that "at the same time, I would never say that Facebook is run by angels.''
If the effort pays off, Facebook will grow its user base, advertising revenue and influence. Business and philanthropy, in this case, can go hand in hand, Levinson said.
Facebook has seen a healthy growth of its advertising revenue in recent months, especially on the mobile devices it sees as the Internet's new frontier. In its latest quarterly report, it posted the largest revenue gain since late 2011, when it was still a private company. Total revenue in the April-June quarter was up 53 percent from a year