MIDRAND, South Africa – Google and the Development Bank of Southern Africa have invested in a satellite system that will bring high speed internet to remote areas across the globe. The project is titled O3b, or Other 3 Billion, representing the number of people on Earth without access to fast internet. O3b was developed to help bring economic and social development in areas by connecting more people to the internet.
The O3b satellite system will provide Internet coverage to areas that are “within 45 degrees of latitude north and south of the equator,” where many developing nations are located. Greg Wyler, founder of the project, says that access to broadband “enables everybody in these societies to become economically relevant to the rest of the world.” Broadband connections will allow more people in the developing world to expand their markets, in addition to connecting with and purchasing goods from around the globe.
In addition to providing economic benefits, access to broadband promises improved education and healthcare, and allow for improved political organization.
While the O3b project will certainly bring a number of benefits to the developing world, some are concerned that there are more important needs that should be met before an investment in the Internet is made for the impoverished. Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development in Washington emphasizes that there are a number of factors that must also be addressed in development efforts. Kenny states that very basic health inventions, such as bed nets and vaccines, are the most important ones to developing areas since they save lives.
Access to the internet, however, can allow those who are located in rural areas to connect with healthcare professionals in times of need. Without the Internet, people living in rural areas without medical workers would have no way of seeking out the care that they need. The O3b system will have eight satellites launched in 2013 and will be fully functional by the end of the year.
– Jordan Kline