The project is entitled Internet.org and its goal is to extend Internet access to five billion people by cutting the cost of smart phone-based Internet services in developing countries. (Agencies)
"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy," he said, adding that the project aimed to make it easier and cheaper to connecting to the web.
The other partners in the project are Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek and Opera, while Twitter and LinkedIn are also due to sign up.
Today some 2.7 billion people, just over a third of the world's population, have access to the Internet, and the number of new users is growing only slowly each year, a statement said.
"The goal of Internet.org is to make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today," the statement said.
The seven founding partners are going to develop joint projects, share knowledge and mobilize governments and industry to bring the world online.
Specifically, they want to simplify mobile apps to make them more efficient and improve telephone components and networks so they perform better while consuming less energy.
They also want to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy Internet access in underserved communities.
Zuckerberg insisted in an interview that the project was not simply aimed at generating more customers.
"If we were just focused on making money, the first billion people we've connected have way more money than the rest of the next six billion combined. It's not fair but it's the way that it is," he said.
The partnership emulates one launched by Facebook in 2011 called Open Compute Project, which also aims to improve the materials used in call centers and make them less energy-hungry.
That project was originally met with skepticism but has gradually won over the major players in the computer industry.
The new thrust comes at a key time for tech groups. Mature markets are saturated and have little potential for significant growth, while poor regions like Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia are pools of potential new customers.
The project is entitled Internet.org and its goal is to extend Internet access to five billion people by cutting the cost of smart phone-based Internet services in developing countries.