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Mark Zuckerberg and a band of tech giants including Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson have joined up to launch internet.org, aiming to bring the Internet to those who don't have it.

Facebook head honcho Mark Zuckerberg today announced the global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people.

"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect," Zuckerberg said in a statement.

"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."

Zuckerberg said only 2.7 billion people, just over one-third of the world's population, have access to the internet and Internet adoption is growing by less than 9% each year.

The team behind Internet.org described its goal as "making internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today."

The founding members of internet.org - Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung - will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilise industry and governments to bring the world online. The founding companies also expect mobile operators to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts as well.

In order to achieve its goal of connecting the two-thirds of the world who are not yet online, internet.org said it will focus on three key challenges in developing countries:

Making access affordable: Partners will collaborate to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. Potential projects include collaborations to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities. Mobile operators will play a central role in this effort by driving initiatives that benefit the entire ecosystem.

Using data more efficiently: Partners will invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences. Potential projects include developing data compression tools, enhancing network capabilities to more efficiently handle data, building systems to cache data efficiently and creating frameworks for apps to reduce data usage.

Helping businesses drive access: Partners will support development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible. Other efforts will focus on localising services - working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices.

"For more than 100 years, Ericsson has been enabling communications for all and today more than 6 billion people in the world have access to mobile communications,” said Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson.

"We are committed to shaping the Networked Society – where everyone and everything will be connected in real time; creating the freedom, empowerment and opportunity to transform society. We believe affordable connectivity and internet access improves people's lives and helps build a more sustainable planet and therefore we are excited to participate in the internet.org initiative.”

“As a world leader in mobile solutions for emerging markets having powered more than 300 million smart devices within 2 years, MediaTek whole heartedly supports the internet.org initiative.” said MK Tsai, Chairman of MediaTek.

“Global Internet and social media access represent the biggest shift since the industrial revolution, and we want to make it all-inclusive.”

“Nokia is deeply passionate about connecting people – to one another and the world around them,” said Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop. “Over the years, Nokia has connected well over a billion people. Our industry is now at an exciting inflection point where Internet connectivity is becoming more affordable and efficient for consumers while still offering them great experiences.

"Universal internet ccess will be the next great industrial revolution.”

The Internet.org website itself launched today and provides an overview of the mission and goals, as well as a full list of the partners. In the coming weeks, it will feature interviews with technology leaders and experts, along with the latest news on Internet.org activities.

You can also check out the group's Facebook page here.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. He also writes for Junkee and Fasterlouder. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan

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