Social Media

The man working to connect the world for Facebook

Facebook's plan to connect the world

The key to Mark Zuckerberg's 10-year vision for Facebook: Connecting billions more people around the world to the internet, and to Facebook.

It's a process that involves the social network investing in all sorts of new hardware — from drones to antennas — to working with partners around the world, to enable to bring them online and into Facebook's ecosystem.

Leading the charge is Ime Archibong, Facebook's director of product partnerships. So far he's been keeping a relatively low profile, as he's not driving ad dollars, as Sheryl Sandberg and her team are, or M&A, like Dan Rose, or product, like Chris Cox and his team.

But Archibong's role at Facebook is increasingly important to help Zuckerberg achieve his goals, and to help the company maintain its growth. He spends his year racking up frequent flier miles, traveling the world to meet with Facebook's community of 9,000 developers across 136 companies.

"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 4.1 billion people who have never been connected online, and make sure they can get the same benefits and tools and experience that you and I are purview to, as a result of having connectivity," he said.

Ime Archibong, director of product partnerships at Facebook, speaks on stage during the Facebook F8 conference in San Francisco, April 12, 2016.
Stephen Lam | Reuters

Archibong is focused, one, on making sure that accessing the internet is affordable; and two, on raising awareness of the benefits of being online — not just Facebook.

"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."

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Archibong dismissed backlash against Facebook's "Free Basics" program, which gives free access to certain internet services. Indian regulators said it violated network neutrality rules because there are limits set on the amount of data that can be used. Facebook countered that some internet is far better than no internet. Archibong said the stats speak for themselves, with more than 500 start-ups and services available on the Free Basics program, which is available in 37 countries.

"There's millions and millions of people that have come online that otherwise wouldn't have been online," said Archibong.

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"Yes there are pockets here and there around the world where I think that there are a bunch of open questions and complexities about whether this is the right model or not, but we continue to see the model working," he said.

And Archibong is optimistic about the potential to give many more people access to the internet, and the possibilities that will unleash. "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."