Mark Zuckerberg’s Plan to Bring the Internet to the Poor

Commentaries on economics and technology.
Sept. 15 2013 7:00 AM

The World Wide Web Should Actually Be Worldwide

And Mark Zuckerberg has a plan.

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Providing universal Internet access is a project on a scale similar to sequencing the human genome, and, like the human-genome project, it will raise new risks and sensitive ethical issues. Online scammers will have access to a new and perhaps more gullible audience. Breaches of copyright will become even more widespread than they are today (although they will cost the copyright owners very little, because the poor would be very unlikely to be able to buy books or other copyrighted material).

Moreover, the distinctiveness of local cultures may be eroded, which has both a good and a bad side, for such cultures can restrict freedom and deny equality of opportunity. On the whole, though, it is reasonable to expect that giving poor people access to knowledge and the possibility of connecting with people anywhere in the world will be socially transforming in a very positive way.

Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and laureate professor at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Animal Liberation, among other books.