Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has announced a global partnership between the social media network and other technology firms, with the aim of making internet access available to the two-thirds of the world that are not yet connected.
Zuckerberg, who is the founder of one of the world's most popular websites, has joined forces with Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, Opera Software, Qualcomm and MediaTek with the intention of making the internet available to five billion people.
According to the partnership, only 2.7 billion people are currently connected to the internet, with internet adoption growing by less than nine per cent each year.
The partnership, dubbed Internet.org, will enable the companies to develop joint projects, share knowledge and call for industry and governments to bring countries and people up to date. The companies also want mobile operators, non-governmental organisations or NGOs, academics and experts to play a role within the initiative.
The companies will focus on overcoming three key challenges in developing countries.
The first is making access affordable, which the partners will aim to do by developing and adopting technologies that make mobile connectivity and the cost of delivering data less expensive. Internet.org may develop a lower-cost, higher-quality smartphone, for example.
The second challenge is to use data more efficiently. Partners are expected to collaborate on projects to develop data compression tools, enhance network capabilities to better handle data, build systems to cache data efficiently and create frameworks for apps to help reduce data usage.
These are all technologies that Opera has experience of with its Opera Mini web browser, which routes data via Opera servers in Iceland and the Netherlands to conduct server-side compression.
Finally, the companies will support the development of sustainable new business models and services to help people get access to the internet.
The new models are intended to provide incentives to mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other organisations to provide more affordable internet access.
Other efforts will include working with operating system providers to enable more languages on mobile devices.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy," Zuckerberg said.
"Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it," he added.
Nokia president and CEO Stephen Elop claimed that universal internet access would be "the next great industrial revolution".
The Internet.org website launches today.