Al Jazeera: Zuckerberg's fake internet risks the web future in Pakistan

Posted by Soledad Vega on Mon, 06/22/2015 - 09:22

Everyone deserves open networks, universal service funds and unlicensed spectrum. does the opposite. Speak out now at

Article by Arzak Khan for Al Jazeera America, the partnership between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Norweigian telecom operator Telenor, seeks to make internet access available to the two-thirds of the world’s population who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected world has today. The project was first launched in July 2014 in Zambia followed by Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia, Ghana, India, Philippines, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malawi.

Now the project is coming to my native Pakistan. Through the app, Telenor’s 37 million customers in Pakistan have free Internet access to 17 websites that includes the popular social media website Facebook along with BBC, Wikipedia and other news, health, education, finance and information services.’s aims are based on a real problem faced by millions of people without Internet access in Pakistan due to low incomes and affordability, user capability and, most importantly, poor telecommunications infrastructure.

Despite the effort’s apparent noble intentions, this initiative has more drawbacks than benefits. First, both and Telenor are misleadingly marketing to the people this initiative as “the Internet” whereas the free net access provided through this initiative is not the real Internet but basically a bundle of limited websites approved by Facebook with significant privacy and security flaws. Second, this initiative does not help in resolving the connectivity issues of developing countries such as Pakistan and doubles the gravity of the issue by offering a platform for restricted Internet access where people with scarcer economic resources have very limited opportunity for joining the global Internet economy. Thus the effort does little to narrow the digital divide. 

The Internet’s success is due to its openness, equality of opportunity and innovation. Platforms such as Facebook itself would not have been created if Zuckerberg accessed the Internet only via this initiative. Furthermore, the Internet is already believed to be an important medium to help countries such as mine develop successful economies. But Pakistan is hampered by poor broadband infrastructure, low speeds and unavailability of access. Pakistanis who may connect for the first time using are at risk of missing out on the real Internet that gives them an unlimited opportunities for socio-economic development, thereby leading to a potential lack of interest in the real Internet.

- Read more at Al Jazeera America