Facebook’s Zuckerberg goes to India to get ‘next billion online’



Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday he believes India will be crucial to getting “the next billion online” and helping to alleviate poverty.

Speaking to about 900 students at New Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology, Mr Zuckerberg said broadening Internet access was vital to economic development in a country where a billion people are still not online.

“If you really have a mission of connecting every person in the world you can’t do that without connecting people in India,” Mr Zuckerberg, dressed in a grey T-shirt and dark jeans, told the audience.

“We have the second biggest community in India and we want the next billion to come online,” he said, adding that Internet access helps create jobs and lift people out of poverty.

India is Facebook’s second biggest market after the United States, with about 130 million of its 1.5 billion worldwide users, making it critically important for the site which is banned in China.

The 31-year-old billionaire gave lighthearted answers to questions including “Why do I get so many requests for (online game) Candy Crush?” and “If you could have a supernatural power what would you wish for?”

But he also vigorously defended Facebook’s controversial Internet.org project, which provides free access to the Internet, mainly in poor rural communities, in 24 countries including India.

Critics of Internet.org say it violates net neutrality - the principle that companies providing Internet access should not favour some sites or restrict access to others.

“We have a moral responsibility to look out for people who do not have the Internet... and make sure the rules don’t get twisted to hurt people who don’t have a voice,” Mr Zuckerberg said, adding that the programme had brought a million Indians online.

Facebook is also exploring new ways to increase access in hard-to-reach areas, he said, such as solar-powered planes to “beam down connectivity” and data-light apps that work on slow 2G networks.

Zuckerberg’s trip came after a weekend visit to Tsinghua university in Beijing where he delivered a 20-minute speech in Mandarin, a language he has been studying since 2010.

He met India’s tech-savvy prime minister Narendra Modi last month when the premier toured Facebook on a visit to Silicon Valley, advocating the political power of social media.

business@thenational.ae

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Stage 2

1. Mathieu van der Poel (NED) Alpecin-Fenix 4:18:30

2. Tadej Pogacar (SLV) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:06

3.  Primoz Roglic (SLV) Jumbo-Visma 0:00:06

4. Wilco Kelderman (NED) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:06

5. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:08

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Company profile

Company name: Leap
Started: March 2021
Founders: Ziad Toqan and Jamil Khammu
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Funds raised: Undisclosed
Current number of staff: Seven

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Our legal columnist

Name: Yousef Al Bahar

Advocate at Al Bahar & Associate Advocates and Legal Consultants, established in 1994

Education: Mr Al Bahar was born in 1979 and graduated in 2008 from the Judicial Institute. He took after his father, who was one of the first Emirati lawyers

Nick's journey in numbers

Countries so far: 85

Flights: 149

Steps: 3.78 million

Calories: 220,000

Floors climbed: 2,000

Donations: GPB37,300

Prostate checks: 5

Blisters: 15

Bumps on the head: 2

Dog bites: 1

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat