The 550 Challenge: Can We Connect Everyone In The World Online (Yes, Everyone) By 2018?

from the it's-a-challenge dept

Dan Berninger has launched an ambitious program (for which I've agreed to sign on as a supporter), called the 550 Challenge. The idea is straightforward: see if we can work towards getting every single person on the planet connected to the internet by February 3, 2018 -- the 550th anniversary of Johannes Guttenberg's death:
The 550 Challenge - the world borderless by February 3, 2018 - promotes the expansion of Internet access to include everyone on earth by the 550th anniversary of Johannes Guttenberg's death. Gutenberg died on February 3, 1468 in relative obscurity before the printing press got credit for ending the Dark Age and setting in motion 200 years of accelerated progress in art, literature, and learning known as the Renaissance. The 550 Challenge seeks to realize the promise of the Internet as the basis for a new Communication Renaissance.
With economic turmoil around the globe, and various governments putting together all sorts of "make work" projects to try to boost the economy, Berninger (and those of us who have signed on) argue that nothing can help the economy like increasing communication among everyone on the planet:
A dramatic expansion of communication seems likely to prove more affordable than infrastructure projects, energy related interventions, and war. The nature of communication technology tends to shape the course of human affairs, because communication represents a key input to the global economy. Half of all energy gets consumed by moving people from one place to another, so improving communication can help addresss global warming and geo-political tensions generated by energy consumption.

A telephone call does not require a Green Card or engage the TSA, so communication technologies can lessen the dislocations associated with immigration, emigration, and the arbitrary power of birthplace over opportunity. The Arab Spring illustrates the threat communication poses to tyranny and utility for linking people across lines of conflict. Risks exist with any technology just as roads benefit people seeking to rob banks as well as the general public. The 550 Challenge merely asserts connecting everyone offers less downside risk than the disconnected status quo.

Connecting everyone on earth within six years seems ambitious, but it requires merely sustaining the existing pace of cell phone and Internet expansion. The process of connecting people may require first finding sources for food, water, and shelter as well as navigating dangerous conflict over borders, but the challenges nonetheless do not compare to the World War's of the 20th century both of which played out in less than six years.
It's an ambitious program, but the world needs ambitious programs, and this is one that seems worth supporting and doing anything we can to help it achieve its goals.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:17pm

    We also have to make sure that there is an internet for the rest of the world to connect to in 6 years. With the way things are going ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    CN, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:23pm

    Internet for all? How about food for all?

    Seems like everyone is too busy trying to get people off the net. Three strikes, and so forth.

    How about getting food for everyone on the planet instead? Seems more useful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    MikeP (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:27pm

    How can we help?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Kate Duhamel, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:37pm

    cell phones

    "The process of connecting people may require first finding sources for food, water, and shelter as well as navigating dangerous conflict over borders,.." I was in liberia shortly after the civil war ended, no plumbing, no electricity, no infrastructure, hardly any functioning economy, and yet everyone had a cell phone, and they managed community satellite TV for soccer games. Human ingenuity is powerful, so if people want to be connected, they will find a way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    kduhamel (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    connecting

    "The process of connecting people may require first finding sources for food, water, and shelter as well as navigating dangerous conflict over borders,..." I was in Liberia shortly after the civil war ended. There was no plumbing, no electricity, no infrastructure, almost no functioning economy, and yet everyone had cell phones and they managed community satellite TV for soccer games. Human ingenuity is powerful - if people want to be connected, they find a way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    JackHerer (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 5:14pm

    I am so into this idea

    I have a massive amount of respect for the people working in developing countries trying to provide basic human needs like clean water, food and sanitary toilet/waste systems. However I think the "lets get them bread and clean water and we'll worry about computers and mobile phones later" misses the point somewhat. Everything created by human beings was created by communication and collaboration. Connectivity and technology are the best and most efficient ways to collaborate and communicate and if we work towards a world where collaboration and communication infrastructure is in place globally and collaboration communication and organisation become trivial then it provides the bedrock to solve the difficult problems like food, water, sanitation, education and inequality. Lets get the world connected and then it will be so much easier to work out how to solve the hard problems.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    HRHaig (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 5:56pm

    harmony via the web?

    I've often wondered how much it would promote good will and peace if the financial barriers to global communication were eliminated. Would we just start calling random people across the world just to say hi?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Jeff Downer Indianapolis, IN (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 6:31pm

    Open Rev and their MobiPay project

    Along these lines and what it can mean check out the folks at Open Rev and their MobiPay project.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 6:41pm

    No. With development of law regarding cyberspace, there will be some people banned from accessing internet. So there's no way to get "everyone" connected. Period.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 6:50pm

    Yes but the free version won't be very useful by then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 6:54pm

    It's gonna be tough to get those Bushmen on board.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    simple simon (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 7:53pm

    I'm guessing the Amish are going to be a hard sell.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 8:02pm

    Along with communist nations, countries who treat any of their citizens as unequal, there are the amish, the orthodox jewish community, etc. 100% will never happen. 100% of the democratic/ western world is more likely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Donnicton, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 9:03pm

    I doubt we'll even have a reasonable portion of people on IPv6 by 2018. The way things are going right now with the foot-dragging over IPv4, we likely couldn't even support that many.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 10:48pm

    Re:

    I doubt the internet will cease to exist within 6 years. Though I can see the USA being a third rate power who does not have access to it.

    Therefore this 550 challenge will most likely fail unless they remove USA citizens from the population count.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 1:37am

    so what excuse is the US government going to come up with allowing it to spy on every person in the world? as if all US citizens isn't enough, that will be the next step once everyone is connected. no one and nothing will be your own or private ever again!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    mattarse (profile), Jan 6th, 2012 @ 1:45am

    Re: Internet for all? How about food for all?

    Exactly - given the choice between food and clean water or watching videos of cats in funny situations - I vote for the food and water.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    SlinkySlim, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Re: harmony via the web?

    Hi.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: harmony via the web?

    Hi!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Walter Dnes, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    Re: harmony via the web?

    > I've often wondered how much it would promote good will and
    > peace if the financial barriers to global communication
    > were eliminated. Would we just start calling random people
    > across the world just to say hi?

    We've already got random people calling from India claiming that my linux machine is infected with Windows viruses, or selling "extended car warranties". All we're missing is phone calls from BARRISTER THOMAS informing us about money left behind by a dead client of his. No thanks

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 6:56pm

    An intreging idea but...

    Honestly, the internet is not economically useful in places that don't have running water yet, or that still use barter. It's one thing to bring universal broadband to developed countries such as India, and South Africa and Egypt and most European countries, and China... But when you start trying to bring the internet to places that lack infrastructure such as roads, and running water let alone power, internet connectivity is aiming far too high. I'd much rather make a widespread rail access, or perhaps universal pure water/universal electrical access.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    iBelieve, Jan 7th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Pipedream

    The general populations of the world can't be trusted on their own for the sake of their own counties' sovereignties around the world. Setting up the great firewall is for that reason neccessary to quelch untrusted players who have anything but the most devious of plans aimed against their own governments, peoples and economies. This 550 is a pipedream. Look up at the scalar skies. Keep watching.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    C#, Jan 7th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Internet for all? How about food for all?

    Did you even read the whole article?

    Connecting everyone on earth within six years seems ambitious, but it requires merely sustaining the existing pace of cell phone and Internet expansion. The process of connecting people may require first finding sources for food, water, and shelter as well as navigating dangerous conflict over borders, but the challenges nonetheless do not compare to the World War's of the 20th century both of which played out in less than six years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This