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Zuckerburg at MWC: Emerging markets don’t know they need the internet

Clare McDonald

Slow uptake of the internet in emerging markets is due to a lack of knowledge of necessity, according to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Zuckerberg said the acquisition of mobile messaging provider Whatsapp, which Facebook bought earlier this month for almost $19bn, was part of a plan to encourage less developed markets online.

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After a video presentation claiming that by 2020 mobile operators will help a further billion people access the internet, Zuckerburg said: “It’s the shared goal to help connect everyone in the world.”

He said Whatsapp was the perfect candidate for acquisition, due to its widespread usage, with 70% of Whatsapp users visiting the app every day.

Facebook recently partnered up with the internet.org partnership in an attempt to connect more of the emerging world to the internet.

“It’s only about a third of people have any access to the internet.” He explained “It’s actually growing way slower than you imagine.”

According to Zuckerburg, most of the cost of accessing the internet is acquiring a data plan as opposed to an internet enabled device, and people are discouraged as they don’t see the need for internet access.

He proposed using Facebook as a carrot on the stick of coaxing more users online. He said: “A lot of the goal that we have with internet.org is to create a kind of on-ramp to the internet.”

Zuckerburg and Internet.org will provide users a free basic text based services, including messaging, Wikipedia and Facebook to remove the barrier of cost in accessing the internet. This may then convince users that a data connection is worth spending their disposable income on.

In areas where this plan is being tested, a significant increase in the number of people online has already been seen.

When asked if Facebook would try to buy Snapchat again, Zuckerburg commented: “After buying a company for $16bn you’re probably done for a while.”


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