Monday, February 22, 2016

Facebook to Connect Globe on the Web through Artificial Intelligence

             A team at Facebook recently released detailed information regarding their use of artificial intelligence to bring Internet connectivity to those currently off the net.  According to the article, 10% of the world’s population live in parts of the world that do not have Internet connectivity.  To solve this issue, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab has built population maps for 20 countries, “using techniques from computer vision to analyze high-resolution satellite imagery"(Ranger). 

One of the key elements to solving this problem is by understanding how communities are connected to one another.  Through its research, Facebook found that villages along a river or road could be best connected by terrestrial point-to-point links; however, drones or satellites would better serve scattered communities.  In order to collect this data, the lab used a conventional image-processing technique to select areas with potential man-made structures and discard images with vast bodies of desert, forest or water.  Next, the team trained Facebook’s image recognition engine to detect buildings on the satellite images.  Finally, they used a “weakly supervised” neutral network to identify the outlines of the buildings.    Through the use of this technology, researchers have analyzed 20 countries and collected 350 TB of imagery over 21.6 square kilometers.

The Connectivity Lab announced that they would release the data publicly this year: “We believe this data has many more impactful applications, such as socio-economic research and risk assessment for natural disasters"(Ranger).  If implemented successfully, this advancement will have an extremely positive impact on the communities that do not currently have connectivity to the Internet.  The Internet could be used to educate these communities, which would enhance communal security, develop economic ties with other communities/countries, and improve their overall quality of life as a result. It could lead to transit improvements and in turn, physically connect these communities and open up trade opportunities.   It would also allow improved health care, security, and overall life styles to these communities.  It would also greatly benefit the 90% of the world’s population with Internet connection by having total connectivity across the globe, allowing increased risk management and socioeconomic research worldwide.  One negative effect that this connection could have on the communities, however, is that they may not accept or want to be a part of the net because it hinders and/or corrupts their cultural and religious beliefs. 

             Facebook’s Connectivity Lab has made great strides in bringing Internet connectivity to those off the net.  Through their use of artificial intelligence, Facebook has built population maps for 20 countries which aid in the technological set up of providing internet connection to the 10% of the world that currently do not have any.  This advancement creates great benefits for both the connected and currently unconnected Internet users.  Despite being somewhat of a hindrance or culture change to communities without Internet connection, many positive benefits will arise from worldwide Internet connection, further connecting our society and world as a whole.



  1. After reading this article and your responses to it, I would also like to study this topic and include my own thoughts and ideas. In a communications class I took, I learned about the digital divide and how it is leaving many countries disconnected. This disconnect leaves certain locations weaker than others and keeps them from reaching their potential. This seems to be the problem that Facebook is attempting to solve through the use of artificial intelligence. Through the use of information technology such as mapping software, image processing, and other forms of detection methods, Facebook has been able to locate specific areas that are lacking Internet access. This information not only provides data about where better connections must be made but also about where people may be the most vulnerable. For example, The Connectivity Lab said, "We believe this data has many more impactful applications, such as socio-economic research and risk assessment for natural disasters." I agree that if implemented successfully, there would be an extremely positive impact. Going off of what you wrote, I also think that providing these locations with Internet access would allow these locations, governments, and communities to grow stronger as well as smarter. It would allow for everyone to be more connected, which will help everyone in the long run. The negative effect of this implementation you discussed, that it could hinder or corrupt culture or religious beliefs, is also very interesting. Although this is something that could happen, I believe that most governments will accept this connectivity to help their community in the long run. I believe that with work and continued data collection, other industries will follow in Facebook’s footsteps and begin researching ways to make the world more connected and get rid of this digital divide.

  2. I found this topic very interesting and it is an issue I have heard little about even in the massively growing technological world. This project that Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is working on would help bring small rural towns in secluded areas of the world to 21st century technology standards. I really liked the point that Emma said that emphasized not only would this project help connect the world more but it would also allow for an update the standard of life for these disparate areas.

    My question for the author of the article is when would this potential system be up and running? And if Facebook accomplishes their goal to connect the areas that they have been focusing on, how does that increase the number of people worldwide who are then without connectivity?

    I believe this is a huge accomplishment for the information technology world and I am interested to see how the Connectivity Lab could advance the world even further.

  3. Sometimes I forget that there are people and societies in the world that still live their daily lives without the technological advances and internet that I use every day. This is the first that I have heard of Facebook's Connectivity Lab focusing on bringing small rural towns in secluded areas of the world up to date on today’s technology. I think this is really unique and cool for Facebook to be taking the time to use artificial intelligence to bring technology to small-disconnected places throughout the world. Facebook is using information technology such as mapping software and image processing to locate specific areas that are lacking technology such as Internet access.
    A question I had after reading about what Facebook's Connectivity Lab is working on to make disconnected areas around the world more technologically advanced and up-to-date is about where they are getting the funds to do this? From what this blog is saying, it sounds as if it would be a pricey project to conduct and go through with. However, if Facebook is successful and does bring these areas of the world up-to-date, I think that it will help these societies to become stronger and evolve quicker. The sooner these places are able to keep up with todays technology, the sooner they will be able to get involved with connecting with the rest of the world. However, if these areas were to become more technologically advanced, this then leads to my next concern. If these countries and places do become more technologically advanced, will these advances and Internet access take away from their culture and negatively affect how they live their lives? How will these people react to sudden advances in technology? All and all, I think that the pros outweigh the cons and Facebook should continue in helping these places around the world join the technological era. If they don’t join the rest of the globe now, they will eventually: better late than never.


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