That may be a tall claim and one that many might scoff at, but that is exactly what Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with a host of other celebrities, told business leaders at a private luncheon at the United Nations last Saturday. Their connectivity campaign, one that seeks to make Internet access universal to the more than 4 billion people still deprived of the technology, believes that the Internet isn’t only useful for sharing knowledge but also for helping end poverty and promoting world peace.
It’s not going to stop a bullet, as Zuckerberg himself admits, but the “powerful force” created by a global community with shared understanding can. Or rather, the Internet can help stop guns from even being fired, so to speak. Recent events have demonstrated how the Internet can be give a voice to those normally censored by governments, revealing light on activities normally unknown to the world at large. And that’s just with a few million people who have Internet access now. Imagine the potential when everyone is connected to the Internet, a future that Zuckerberg wants to happen by 2020.
This call to connect peoples and nations through the Internet came the day after the 193 member nations of the UN adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDG to be the guideposts for the next 15 years in the battle against poverty, inequality, and climate change. This “to-do list for people and planet”, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it, would be a blueprint for governments and private sectors to implement. The connectivity campaign wants universal Internet access to be part of that roadmap as well.
Some might say that the campaign is self-serving. After all, Facebook’s business fundamentally relies on Internet access. No Internet, no Facebook. Some might even it find it ironic considering how the likes of Facebook have also been used as tools to instigate misunderstanding and unrest. But it isn’t alone in making the call or in putting the Internet on a pedestal. There are already raised voices in support of classifying Internet access as a basic human right, something that the UN itself declared a few years back.
Others on the campaign include Bill and Melissa Gates, U2’s Bono, actresse Charlize Theron, Shakira, Star Wars actor George Takei, and Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales.