More than two and a half billion people in the world today don’t have access to the Internet on a reliable basis, according to the International Telecommunications Union. That’s a big problem. As information is increasingly published online, certain populations are excluded from learning about health care, jobs, and breaking news, deepening the digital divide.
A number of companies are racing to connect the next billion people. Google, Virgin, Space X, and Facebook are all attempting to solve the issue by launching huge satellites into the sky, with the goal of building a new consumer base that will boost their businesses.
Local tech trailblazer Chris Jensen and his team at Left.io, however, have come up with a better solution. Instead of requiring everybody to connect to the Internet via satellite, phone tower, or WiFi router, the company’s RightMesh technology allows individuals to get onto the Internet by linking to each other’s cellphones. Each phone forms a connection point in a giant mesh, allowing information—and Internet access—to be passed between each person, as long as someone in the mesh is online.
“Instead of everyone being connected to the Internet, it’s just that everyone is connected, and you can use the Internet when you need to,” Jensen, who cofounded Left.io and serves as its CEO, tells the Georgia Straight.
The U.K.-born entrepreneur suggests that RightMesh isn’t focused on earning huge profits. Founder of several previous startups, Jensen ensured that Left.io is a certified B Corp—a business that must fulfill strict social and environmental requirements—and describes his goal as creating something of lasting value that makes a mark on the world. Already transforming the way people communicate in Rigolet, a remote coastal community in Labrador, RightMesh’s technology lets local people build the apps and share the information that they choose, making sure that societies are using the service in the best way for them.
“We get almost all of our information in the West from touching things on the Internet,” Jensen says. “If you’re in a rural village in sub-Saharan Africa, you can’t do that. There was a PWC survey that said that if you can connect the next billion people, you’ll give them the tools to raise 100 million people out of poverty. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays