Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Zuckerberg's 'Greatest Challenge Of Our Generation' Requires A/B Testing

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 21, 2013

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Mark Zuckerberg's call for an industry-wide effort to bring Internet connectivity to billions of the world's poorest is framed in the context of a great humanitarian crusade, he calls it "one of the greatest challenges of our generation."

It seems lacking in ambition and imagination to focus on Internet connectivity as a grand challenge that will inspire many others to devote their time and energy into making a reality. It is also incredibly self-serving. 

Do the world's poor want Internet access versus say clean water? Shouldn't Mr. Zuckerberg ask them? 

Over at One Hacker Way (above), the Hacker Way calls for lots of A/B testing. Has Facebook carried out any A/B testing regarding what the billions of people on the fringes of digital society want? Do they even have a say? 

A/B testing would save Internet.org a lot of time and trouble if it turns out the poor would rather have a safe place to live, sanitation, schools, clean water, health clinics, electric lights, roads, or food. Not that there's a choice but in theory, if they had a choice what would they want?

I bet Internet connectivity never comes up in their social conversations. Internet connectivity is nice to have but it's only useful if you have the other basic things needed for existence. 

Bill Gates is right when he commented about Google's aptly named Project Loon venture to float balloons in poor countries, carrying Internet access: "When you're dying of malaria, I suppose you'll look up and see that balloon, and I'm not sure how it'll help you."

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