LotusFlare–Internet Access is a Human Right
When desktop computers started making their way to the market, it was obvious that smaller and more compact versions of these machines were the future. On came the laptop age but even during that period, innovators, as well as the consumers, looked for handheld devices that didn’t take a lot of effort to carry around.
Once tablets and new generation smartphones made their way to the market, consumers quickly adopted them. Today, nearly 68.1% of all online traffic comes from mobile devices while PCs are responsible for 28.1% of it. For developing markets, these numbers are even more slanted in favor of mobile devices. One reason for that is the ease of connectivity. PCs demand a bigger infrastructure to ensure internet connectivity whereas mobile devices can typically work through towers built by mobile phone operators.
An analysis of users’ online habits tells us what websites are being accessed the most. Based on this, LotusFlare, a Santa Clara-based company is partnering with mobile phone operators to create data bundles that come pre-stacked with access to websites that consumers prefer. For example, 93.4% of users with access to the internet use social media. Therefore, based on this stat alone, we can see that access to social media is a priority for a large majority of internet users. LotusFlare can then devise a data package that meets the needs of these consumers.
Another clever thing they do is that they don’t offer bundles based on megabytes or gigabytes metrics since they are a poor metric to assess how much data one would need for any specific task. Instead, their bundles are based on the duration of time. Consumers pay for a fixed number of hours or minutes and during that period, they can access the websites in their bundle such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype etc. For the developing countries where access to information is not only difficult but is also sometimes intentionally restricted, social sites such as Facebook and apps like WhatsApp ensure the flow of information to consumers remains open.
Unlike most other companies in the sector, LotusFlare isn’t waiting around for new technology or running experiments that stretch on for years. Rather, it is employing existing technology and infrastructure to bring internet connectivity to consumers at a lower cost. This essentially tears down two of the biggest barriers to internet access in the developing world; high data cost and lack of coverage.
Chamath Palihapitiya is a board member at LotusFlare and believes that access to the internet is not a luxury but a human right. Sam Gadodia, Terry Guo, and Shao Xia are the founders of LotusFlare. They are ex-Facebook engineers who have previously worked in Asian and Latin American markets.