Internet connectivity is increasingly being seen as a human right in our digital world. Today, most of us can’t imagine a world without the Internet, yet only 30% of the world has access to it. Meanwhile, over 85% of the world has cellular coverage and as mobile phones and smartphones become increasingly cheaper, more people are able to access the Internet.

Here are some global initiatives to make the Internet more affordable and accessible to the most remote areas of the world:

1. Facebook’s

At the end of August 2013, Mark Zuckerberg introduced, a collaborative effort of Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung to bring internet access to the two-thirds of the world that are still offline.

Recently, Facebook launched the app to Airtel customers in Zambia. The app provides access to 13 basic services without data charges; some of the free services include MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action), AccuWeather, and WRAPP (Women’s Rights App). Serving as a channel to women’s right resources, has received praise from Executive Director of UN Women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as she said that, “This technology will empower countless women to make a positive impact on their societies and the world.” While the full benefit of is yet to unfold, it is definitely a step forward in allowing women access to much needed services.

2. Google’s Project Loon

Google’s Project Loon pilot project in New Zealand

Starting with a pilot project in New Zealand in June 2013, Project Loon is Google’s initiative to provide “balloon-powered internet for everyone.” Loon balloons float on the stratosphere and rise and descend with wind patterns to their desired direction of travel, while special antennas in people’s homes allow them to connect with the Loon network for online access. In 2014, Project Loon aims to continue their effort to make internet access possible for hard to reach areas by establishing a ring of connectivity of multiple loons around the 40th parallel.



From the makers of Ushahidi, Crowdmap, and the iHub in Kenya, comes BRCK, a $199 connectivity device designed for use in areas with minimal electricity and internet connections. Built to perform in off-the-grid areas, BRCK works with any 3G enabled SIM card in over 140 countries, has a virtual mobile network operator (vMNO) for connectivity without a SIM card, and also has an external GSM antenna port to support connectivity. Designed by the developing world, for the developing world, BRCK claims that “if it works in Africa, it will work anywhere.”

4. Oluvus


With a mission to “get the world online for free,” Kosta Grammatis is following the footsteps of Facebook and Google in the race to provide free internet connectivity.  Set to launch later this year, Oluvus plans to provide basic internet services for free in the U.S. and use the profit from additional services purchased by their customers to fund connectivity projects in the developing world. Oluvus’s first project is set to take place in the world largest refugee camp, Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya.


What’s next for internet expansion?

As tech giants Facebook and Google tackle the global lack of internet access, they are sure to be ahead of the game. While Facebook’s’s success is too early to tell, Google commemorated a successful 120-day afloat of one of their Loon balloons on 7th August proving they can withstand harsh weather conditions. Google and Facebook are also expanding their internet initiatives considering drones and satellites to deliver the Internet to more people.

Critics have questioned the end goal of the various internet initiatives that are emerging, labeling them as “gateway drugs” to their product among the unreached population. Despite the critique, the pursuit to provide internet access to the world combined with the power of internet connectivity to change people’s lives cannot be denied.

Challenges lie ahead for these internet initiatives as they deal with regulatory issues such as spectrum/net neutrality as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been criticized for trying to regulate. Google’s Loon project may face challenges controlling air traffic for its string of loon balloons and BRCK’s may not withstand all crises while claiming to be crisis-friendly. Those unable to afford computers, laptops, or tablets, are able to leapfrog technology to use mobile phones to access the Internet, making it increasingly empowering in the developing world. The future for internet initiatives looks bright as more businesses and organizations look to reach new customers online by providing internet access worldwide.

Where do you think these internet initiatives are heading? Tweet @techchange or comment below to share your thoughts.

Some 85 percent of the world population has access to Internet nowadays. An increasing number of users venture online with a mobile device – smartphone or tablet – rather than with a PC. About 25 percent of the world population uses social media, while three-quarters of the online population uses one or more social networking sites. Around the world, there are some 1.28 billion Facebook users, with 540 million on YouTube, 187 million on LinkedIn, and 255 million on Twitter. (Source: Brief History of Social Media)

The unprecedented pace of technological advance over the past years, gave millions of people around the world the opportunity to use internet, social media platforms and mobile phones not just to consume information but also to produce it. The increasing sense of empowerment that social media lends its users, regardless of where and who they are, has led to a number of “social media revolutions” credited with toppling governments and totalitarian regimes around the world.

The Arab Spring is often heralded as one of history’s biggest social media victories. This wave of protests began in December 2010 and proceeded through 2011 as rulers were forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and protests broke out in other countries in the region, including in Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Iraq and Jordan, to name just a few. While there was no cohesive campaign or strategy at grassroots level, social media played a crucial role during this time, allowing individuals to organise themselves, communicate and voice their complaints publicly. Many contributed to the virtual protests as well as the physical ones through the use of social media. Combined, these efforts caused governments to take notice.

The Internet and new technologies are increasingly influencing not only the way people respond to and recover from conflicts, but also the way they further engage in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Part of creating communities that can advance peacebuilding is harnessing the power of technology to bring people together, promote conflict management and resolution, and create the public will to change attitudes and behaviours.


New tools for monitoring violence, sustaining dialogue during peace processes, and localising peacebuilding efforts have emerged in recent years as access to mobile phones and internet has increased worldwide. The outreach of these tools goes well beyond the conflict resolution expert circle, enabling people around the globe to share first-hand witness reports of violence, social unrest, human rights infringements, election fraud, political instability, etc. and become agents of change within their own communities. This collaborative approach is known as ‘crowdsourcing’ (i.e. crowd + outsourcing).

In early 2008, in the midst of post-election violence, Kenyans have for the first time used the Ushahidi open-source platform (Ushahidi is the Swahili term for ‘witness’ or ‘testimony’) to collect, visualise and interactively map eyewitness accounts of violence incidents (which would have otherwise remained largely unreported by media, government or police).

Ushahidi Kenya

The Syria Tracker Crisis Map is another impressive crowdsourcing effort launched shortly after the protests began, in April 2011, to collect citizen reports on human rights violations and casualties. Combining automated data mining and crowdsourced human intelligence, the Syria Tracker provides a continually updated list of eyewitness reports from within Syria, often accompanied by media links; aggregate reports including analysis and visualisations of deaths and atrocities in Syria; as well as a stream of content-filtered media from news, social media (Twitter and Facebook) and official sources. This approach could provide a powerful means to assess the human cost of war in Syria.

Syria Tracker Crisis

CrisisNET is another tool which harnesses ‘big data’ coming from social media to map violence. Their Syria mapping is as accurate as the one BBC did with reporters on the ground.


There are several ways in which today’s social media can be leveraged to prevent and manage conflict. Early warning is critical for early response. Permanent conflict monitoring for real-time awareness can help inform appropriate and timely interventions. Likewise, social media can provide real-time feedback on what works and what doesn’t, thus serving as a complementary channel of information for impact evaluation. Finally, as the Arab Spring mobilisation has clearly shown, social media can facilitate self-organisation for early response. Needless to say, the capacity to self-organise also renders conflict prevention networks more resilient. In other words, social media can be used to power civil resistance in nonviolent movements that seek to end oppression and bloodshed. As one Egyptian activist reported during the revolution, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” Social media can be similarly leveraged to facilitate a resilient people-centered approach to conflict prevention.

Twitter and social activism

This post originally appeared on Pax Christi International.

About Ramona Kundt

Ramona Kundt

Ramona Kundt is a Brussels-based communications professional working with Pax Christi International, a network of peacebuilding NGOs. Her work is focused on advocacy, campaigning and communications coordination on issues pertaining human rights, human security, disarmament, religion and violent conflict. An alumna of TechChange online courses in Social Media for Social Change and Technology for Conflict Management and Peacebuilding, she is particularly interested in how social media can influence the way people respond to conflicts, and engage in conflict transformation and peacebuilding, for a lasting positive social change. She has volunteered with various humanitarian and development projects in Africa, most recently in the Maai Mahiu Internally Displaced Persons Camp, in Kenya.


In the last decade, social media has spread quickly across the world and has grown not just in terms of number of users on popular platforms, but also in terms of new niche platforms tailored for specific populations.

With Facebook’s 1 billion active users, the 500 million tweets that flood the Internet daily via Twitter, and the 6 billion hours of YouTube videos available online, it is clear that social media has been integrated into the daily digital lives of many people globally. Combine that with the fact that 85% of the world’s population has access to the Internet – and to many of these social networks – and you’ll find a tool that has revolutionized the way groups around the globe interact with each other.

As popular as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are, the diversity of social media platforms and the way people interact on these platforms are as diverse as the different cultures of these users. According to the social media API aggregation company, GNIP, 49% of tweets in 2013 were in a language other than English. Facebook is also available in several dozen languages.

Twitter languages

Source: GNIP / New York Times

This “World Map of Social Networks” from shows how the dominant social media sites have changed since 2009.


Facebook has clearly become a global leader, but its prominence can be deceptive – many more country-specific social networks have grown rapidly with extremely active user bases. In countries like China, where Facebook and Twitter are banned, sites like RenRen and Weibo, which have similar user interfaces and features, have sprung up. According to a recent article by Forbes magazine, Tencent, the parent company of China’s leading social media platform, is poised to overtake Facebook in terms of average monthly users.

wearesocial-social-media-penetration-worldwide-e1389183989165 wearesocial-social-media-penetration-worldwide-2-e1389184630143

Source: We Are Social /

Alternative social networks are also popular in countries in which Facebook is legal. ZingMe, for example, is extremely popular in Vietnam among teenagers and young adults and Yookos is an emerging network in southern and sub-saharan Africa; the amount of existing social media platforms worldwide is in the thousands.

Social media is designed to bring people together in different ways; it connects governments and organizations with the public and allows for the diffusion of information across the world quickly and efficiently. The limits of social media and its uses are still being defined; issues such as privacy and freedom of speech – and the lack thereof – have been repeatedly debated around the world.

If social media is used differently across the world, what does this mean for social media campaigns for social causes? How do we know what the best tools are to use for targeting specific audiences? Defining and understanding who your target audience is is one of the first steps of designing an effective social change campaign. The ever-evolving social media landscape will be important to understand in order to communicate the right messages, on the right platform, for the right people, and in the right way, to be effective.

How is social media used in your country? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @TechChange.

Check out some of the additional resources we’ve come across that visualize the global diversity of social media:

Come and join us in our discussion about the global diversity of social media and more in our upcoming Social Media for Social Change online course, which begins this Monday!

Last week, the Mobile World Congress 2014 welcomed the most influential mobile carriers across the world that are shaping the future of mobile, especially for populations who are new mobile consumers. Looking back at some of the news coming from the mobile phone industry’s  largest annual event, we examine the key takeaways from this year’s MWC that will impact not just emerging markets, but also developing countries.

1. Facebook wants to bring low-cost or free internet access to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  According to the New York Times, “For Facebook, poorer countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America represent the biggest opportunity to reach new customers, though it must figure out how to get people there online at a low cost.”

Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp is linked to the social media company’s larger initiative to partner with tech companies to have more people across the world, especially in developing countries, to be able to access the internet with a smartphone. Facebook has announced that it wants to partner with five more companies across emerging markets in 2014 to continue this initiative.

2. Mozilla’s $25 smartphone will make mobile internet access more affordable. The Mozilla Foundation has joined forces with a Chinese chipmaker, Spreadtrum Communications, to introduce a mobile device that will be sold for only $25 later in 2014. By offering this smartphone at a price point significantly lower than other major players in the smartphone market, Mozilla is aiming to cut into the smartphone dominance of Android and Apple iOS, and looking to take smartphone market share in Latin America and Africa.

3. Mobile money is growing rapidly. In a report launched this week at the Mobile World Congress, GSMA announced that mobile money reached 61 million consumers in 2013. According to the report, “At the end of 2013, nine markets, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, already had more mobile money accounts than bank accounts, compared to just four markets last year.” Mobile money is resulting in more financial inclusion across the developing world. Looking for an intro to mobile money? Check out our free self-paced online course on mobile money here.

4. mHealth innovations for developing nations will continue to be mostly SMS-focused in the short-term.  Samsung demonstrated it is moving deeper into the mHealth and wearable technology industries with last week’s launches of the Galaxy S5, which can monitor heart rate, and the Gear Fit. As we’ve seen with our earlier post with Text to Change on using mobiles for social change in developing countries, mHealth still has a long way to go in developing countries with simple SMS campaigns. Until these cheaper smartphones become more accessible to more consumers along with reliable internet connectivity as Facebook and Mozilla at MWC 2014 may promise, mHealth in developing countries will continue to focus more on text messaging.

3G Doctor shared this helpful mHealth Guide to the MWC2014. If anyone was able to attend any of these events, please share with us any insights you learned!


Interested in Mobiles for International Development and mHealth? Join our upcoming mHealth online course, which runs March 31 – April 25, 2014.


The first Palestinian Intifada (meaning “Uprising” in Arabic: الانتفاضة) began in 1987 and the second in 2000. With the recent flock of revolution in the Middle East, a third was called for – via social media – to take shape in 2011.
The Facebook Page “Third Palestinian Intifada,” which drew in more than 340,000 members and originally called for Palestinians to peacefully protest after Friday prayers on May 15th, was removed on March 29th because of its hateful statements and violent commentary against Israel’s Jewish population.   (more…)

While the world’s eyes are on Egypt, it is imperative not to forget the struggle in Belarus, which has entered a new phase following the December 2010 election.  The aftermath of the recent elections in Belarus sent shockwaves around Europe; it also provides a crucial test for the Obama Administration’s attitudes towards human rights.  In Belarus, the 19 December 2010 election, marked by widespread fraud, was followed with wide demonstrations by the opposition.  In the month afterwards, the Belarusian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka has engaged in a broad crackdown, arresting over 600 activists and 7 of the presidential candidates.  In addition to those of the opposition, social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and even Google Talk and Gmail were blocked in Minsk. Human rights groups, independent media and other NGOs have been pressured to close or suffered online attacks against their websites in addition to threats and tirades from Minsk. (more…)

Yesterday, Jumo released its beta platform to the world, but the launch was far from seamless.  Founded by Facebook Co-founder Chris Hughes, Jumo bills itself as a “social network for the social sector.” At TechChange, we spent a few hours on the new site and here are some of our first impressions.


In a country where the Queen has her own YouTube Channel, you would think Internet is a free and open space for all, but not exactly.​

Because Jordanian authorities believe that “browsing the Internet is a waste of work time and a huge drain on public money,” 48 local news websites were recently blocked in all workplaces. Of the news websites blocked, both government endorsed Petra News Agency and Al Rai newspaper were on the list. The blogger behind The Black Iris of Jordan notes that of the 70 million websites explored during working hours, only 13,000 of those are relevant to the employees jobs. In light of these new online restrictions, the government even ordered “Internet café owners to install surveillance cameras.”


Look familiar? Another Abu Ghraib photo frenzy? Needless to say, not the first of its kind.

Photos taken by former IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldier Eden Abergil of her 2008 Gaza Strip experiences — paraded in her Facebook photo display titled “The Army.. the most beautiful time of my life 🙂” — has caused online outcry. The photo album, which was once public, has now been personally censored by Abergil and blocked from others to see.


In a city “famous for its snarled traffic and infamous for its unruly drivers,” Facebook is aiding the authorities in New Delhi—”5,000 traffic officers in this city of 12 million people”—in keeping a digital eye on reckless road users. Citizen monitoring and the new Facebook page Delhi Traffic Police is holding drivers and cyclists accountable for their committed traffic violations. This digital venture partners Satyendra Garg—Joint Commissioner of Delhi Traffic Police—and his team with “Facebook to open a two-way channel for instant communication with road-users.”

The Delhi Traffic Police Facebook page was inspired by the need to more closely monitor traffic, in the onset of the Commonwealth Games of 2010, being held in Delhi from October 3rd – 14th. On Twitter, @dtptraffic recognized first and foremost that “management of Traffic in Delhi, during Commonwealth Games, will be a big challenge as well as a great opportunity.”