Economy, Sci & Tech

UN, Facebook to Bring Internet Access to Refugees

UN, Facebook to Bring Internet Access to RefugeesUN, Facebook to Bring Internet Access to Refugees

Facebook is working with the United Nations to enable refugees from Syria to access the Internet so they can more easily communicate while seeking resettlement.

In a speech to the UN on Saturday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Internet connections in camps will help refugees get better support from the aid community and maintain links to family and loved ones.

"Access to the Web is key to increasing quality of life," Zuckerberg added, noting that it not only helps people communicate but can also help lift them from poverty, CNET reported.

"The Internet is more than just a network of machines, it is the key driver of social and economic progress in our time," said Zuckerberg, who pledged that Facebook would continue its efforts in impoverished and developing countries.

"A like or a post won't stop a tank or a bullet, but when people are connected, we have the chance to build a common global community with a shared understanding."

Zuckerberg's pledge marks the latest move by Facebook, Google and other tech giants to expand connectivity across the globe. If they succeed, billions more people could use their services, helping to achieve Facebook's stated goal of connecting everyone and Google's of organizing the world's information.

Bringing Internet access to refugee camps is just one aspect of the effort. Facebook has also been building satellites and aircraft that can beam Internet connections to remote villages and towns.

Google is engaged in a similar project, using high-altitude balloons.

Critics of these programs say the companies stand to benefit from expanding pools of people using their services, which primarily make money from advertising. Others complain the businesses are also trying to create de facto monopolies on Internet access.

At the UN, Zuckerberg cited research saying that for every 10 people who gain access to the Internet, one person is lifted out of poverty.

In his speech, Zuckerberg said 140 million new jobs can be created by expanding Internet access, helping 160 million struggling people.

"Access to the Internet is a fundamental challenge of our time," he said. "This is an opportunity available to all nations today."

In separate remarks at the UN on Saturday, Zuckerberg said Facebook has partnered with global advocacy organization ONE in a global call to action for universal Net access by 2020.