With over 3.1 billion people in the world that have daily Internet access, there are currently 4.2 billion people outside the digital revolution.
If countries make progress in bringing unconnected people to the Internet, it would encourage greater economic development, improve education and health care, and strengthen civil societies around the world. The main factors that make 58% of the world unable to have Internet is caused by expensive data plans, infrastructure barriers, and policy barriers. We are currently seeing around a 9% yearly growth in Internet usage, Google is trying to increase this number dramatically.
Weak infrastructure is a major barrier to digital access. This includes things such as fiber optic lines, cell towers, Internet routers, wireless spectrum, and reliable electricity. It is one of the reasons why Internet penetration is much lower in rural than urban areas. In India, for example, only 9% of rural dwellers have access to the Internet, compared to 64%of those living in metropolitan areas.
That is one reason Google has launched Project Loon. Google believes it is on course to have enough Internet-beaming balloons in the stratosphere to form a ring over part of the world by next year. Their current trial will be focusing in Indonesia, and is hoping to reach more than 100 million Indonesians, giving them access to limitless educational, cultural, and economic opportunities that are available through the Internet.
Google chose Indonesia because of the infrastructure struggles. In Indonesia today, only about 1 out of every 3 people are connected to the web, and most of their connections are extremely slow. Having over 17,000 islands with mountains and jungles makes it difficult to run fiber optic cable or install mobile phone towers in Indonesia.
Project Loon balloons will act like floating cell phone towers in the sky, flying twice as high as commercial planes. Hanging under each Loon balloon is 2 radio transceivers to receive and send data, a flight computer and GPS location tracker, an altitude control system, and solar panels to power the balloon. Google’s vice president of Project Loon, Mike Cassidy states that, “If all goes well, soon many more millions of people in Indonesia will be able to bring their ideas, culture, and businesses online. At that point, the sky’s the limit.”
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