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Project to Bring Internet to Africa’s Rural Communities Flops

In the world of Big Tech there has long been an important obsession about getting the internet to the “next billion” people. The idea was that while a few billion people in mostly advanced and wealthy economies were already taking the internet’s availability for granted the bigger challenge was about how to get the internet to next billion who didn’t have it. Over the second half of the last decade the internet has indeed reached more of that next billion particularly in the busy, fast-growing urban areas of Africa, Asia, Central and South America. But in 2011, Google X, the company’s moonshot factory, a unit set up to launch experimental technologies, decided to focus on a tougher challenge: how to reach the “last billion”, which by some estimates is actually made up as many 4 billion people. Many of these people are in remote, rural areas. Google X’s bet was to use balloons to reach a larger percentage of unconnected people, mostly in the rural areas. This week Google parent Alphabet Inc shut down Loon, after the unit failed to develop a viable business model.