Sri Lanka is a country of over 22 million people, but only 1 in 5 have access to the internet. Google’s Project Loon is about to change that by using solar panel-powered balloons to beam wireless internet to service providers throughout the country for free, an adventurous move that could have dramatic consequences not only within Sri Lanka, but also everywhere else.
On the surface, Project Loon is part of a greater Internet.org initiative (although Google is not officially affiliated) seeking to increase educational opportunities and world-wide social connections by providing free wireless internet to as many people as possible. So far, the project’s supporters have provided basic internet services to hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.
On closer scrutiny, it’s obvious that Google and other companies involved in the Facebook-launched initiative–such as Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson–seek to catapult the number of people who use their platforms to new levels. Right now, about 2/3 of the world’s population are not connected. Who could blame either Google or Facebook for wanting a bigger piece of their already massive money-pie?
Google’s Project Loon will change the world–that much is certain
Project Loon balloons floating at a height of 12 miles use a transmitter that can send wireless internet to a 25 mile diameter on the ground. The height at which the balloons fly should pose no risk to traditional aircraft that fly much lower.
Sri Lanka will be the first country to find out if Google’s Project Loon is destined for success.
Harsha De Silva, the deputy minster of policy planning and economic affairs, made a post about the new deal on Facebook:
Hopefully, in a few months, every person and every device on the island will be covered by 3G…Today’s agreement will certainly provide a huge boost to our game plan to create a knowledge-based, highly [competitive]social market economy that will help every household achieve their own dreams.
The internet revolutionized the way society conducts business. Now we have Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist and it revolutionized the way we conduct political campaigns. Candidates can immediately transmit an inspirational message to millions via YouTube. And although the internet helped toppled regimes during the Arab Spring, it also led to more prevalent addiction and increased the number of sedentary lifestyles.
Providing internet access to the rest of the world will have similarly profound impacts, and none of us can possibly guess what they might be.