Web: Inside Facebook’s ambitious plan to connect the whole world

January 2016 by: From The Web

The stern woman behind the press desk at the United Nations is certain I’ve made a mistake about the person I’m here to see. “Mr. Mark Zuckerberg?” she says. “Who’s he?” ¶ He’s an Internet executive, I tell her. He started Facebook. It’s the second week of the United Nations’ General Assembly. Several hundred reporters crowd into the press holding area. Nearby, on the main plaza, heads of state stroll by. In this place, it seems, Mark Zuckerberg might as well be Mark Smith.¶ She checks her dog-eared schedule, then makes a call, enunciating into the receiver: “ZOO-ker-burg. Mark ZOO-ker-burg.” Silence. “Yes, the Facebook guy.” More silence, during which it occurs to me the UN is like the opposite of Facebook. If it had motivational posters on the wall, they’d read: Move slow and break nothing. Finally, she hangs up and turns back to me. Zuckerberg is on the program after all, she concedes, speaking just before German chancellor Angela Merkel.

A short time later I slip into the back of a two-story amphitheater where Zuckerberg, dressed in a dark suit and a tie, has come to make the case that the Internet should be considered, like health care or clean water, a basic human right. He sees this as the most critical social endeavor of our time. Zuckerberg believes peer-to-peer communications will be responsible for redistributing global power, making it possible for any individual to access and share information. People could tap into government services, determine crop prices, get health care. A kid in India—Zuckerberg loves this hypothetical about a kid in India—could potentially go online and learn all of math. “It’s the underpinning for helping people get into the modern economy,” he says. “Ten years from now, we should not have to look back and accept there are people who don’t have access to that.”


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