Facebook, the world’s biggest and most powerful social network, hooks up people with people. Ime Archibong hooks up Facebook with the world. As Facebook’s director of product partnerships Archibong has a dual mission, one, making sure Internet access is affordable and two, raising awareness of the benefits of being online.
Mark Zuckerberg launched Internet.org two and half years ago in a Herculean effort to connect everyone in the world to the web. Zuckerberg calculates that nearly 4.9 billion people are not connected. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of these people live in hard-to-reach places completely without access. Another major obstacle is Internet affordability. Many impoverished people simply have a hard enough time eating every day.
Archibong is leading the effort to change this. “If your mission is to create a world where people are more connected and people have the power to share, and you’re aiming to connect everyone, you can’t just stop at the folks that are here in North America or the folks that are on the Internet right now, because we are actually in the minority worldwide,” said Archibong. “The question is how do you get those next 4 billion people, who have never been connected, online and make sure they can get the same benefits, tools and experience that you and I are privy to, as a result of having connectivity.”
Internet.org has a varied strategy to get everyone online. Facebook has cut deals with phone carriers in various countries to make over 300 basic web services available for free; Facebook included. Through a research and development group called the Connectivity Lab, Facebook is developing futuristic methods to deliver the net, including lasers, drones, and new artificial intelligence enhanced software. The technology, once perfected, will be open source allowing others to commercialize it.
Connectivity Lab’s work is a top priority for Zuckerberg. Among his plan is to launch a satellite above sub-Saharan Africa by year’s end. Drone testing is also scheduled to begin soon. Facebook’s artificial intelligence mapping software will help determine where people need their phones to work. Facebook has deployed a team of developers to inland villages in an effort to hack together methods for getting people online.
Zuckerberg has been roundly criticized for his effort. Critics have accused him of an attempt to colonize the Internet believing he can do a better job than governments and major corporations of connecting people to the Internet.
Among Archibong’s responsibilities is traveling the world meeting with Facebook’s community of 9,000 developers spread out across 136 companies.
“One of the things we spend a lot of time doing is trying to think about the platforms we can build that ultimately will serve global entrepreneurs and developers, because we do think that they are the ones, they have the context, they understand the nuances, they understand what they should be building that’s going to best serve the local communities,” said Archibong.
“Meeting and talking with a lot of these folks trying to get context about what’s special to them, what’s special about their region … and what we can do from a Facebook perspective to arm them with the tools, the data, with the information to help serve their community a little better.”
Archibong is optimistic about Facebook’s efforts to give billions more people access to the Internet. “I have this notion that people create special things when they’re able to connect with each other and understand each other,” said Archibong. “Some of these future platforms that we’re leaning into are truly going to unlock that value for people around the world, and change the way that we interact with each other, change the way that we interact with devices and actually change the way that devices connect with devices.”
Ime Archibong was born the child of Nigerian immigrants in Kansas and raised in North Carolina. Both his parents are professors. He graduated from Yale where he played on the basketball team and double majored in electrical engineering and computer science.
Archibong previously worked at IBM as a software engineer.