Facebook's internet drone for the poor and Alongsiders

Facebook has unveiled an "ultralight solar-powered drone" designed to beam Wi-Fi to poor and rural villages via lasers.

This news fills me with excitement. You see the grassroots youth movement I started 12 years ago called Alongsiders, has been spreading like wildfire among young people in countries like Cambodia, India, Pakistan and Indonesia. And the internet is one of the main fuels we use to ignite this movement to reach the world's most vulnerable children.

 An Alongsiders Coordinator uses a smartphone Android App to register new Alongsiders in rural Cambodia.

An Alongsiders Coordinator uses a smartphone Android App to register new Alongsiders in rural Cambodia.

The Alongsiders movement first arose in the slums and rural villages of Cambodia as a way for impoverished young people aged 16 to 30 to transform their own communities by walking alongside and mentoring one child each in their own community. They call the children they mentor their "little brother" or "little sister". The movement has grown quickly into nine provinces and then into other countries in Asia and beyond. 

There is an ancient Khmer proverb which offers us wisdom, “Only a spider can repair his own web.” The Alongsiders movement is an initiative of the poor, for the poor.  

The internet offers the thousands of young Alongsiders in this movement a powerful way to connect and spread the vision. From the two young Cambodian men who make our animated training videos at night after they come home from work (which then spread via Facebook)... 

To the Android App we developed right here in Asia to help monitor and keep track of the mentors in the movement...

To the dozens of Asian, African and South American translators, artists and subtitlers we connect with on Fiverr.com. This is a grassroots movement truly born of the internet age - for the developing world.

Facebook's plan to provide greater internet access for rural villages across Asia and Africa means we can connect with more young people - a demographic that is exploding in poorer countries. In fact, 90 percent of the world's youth are Asian, African or South American. It is these young people that we are working to equip as change-makers in their own communities.

In India, where we partner with a network of 3000 churches among the Dalit (previously the "untouchable") caste, we are able to equip their teenagers and young adults to reach out and mentor the poorest children in India using a simple comic book curriculum - developed online together with local Indian translators and artists.  

Sociologists have noted that countries like India with a Youth Bulge (where the vast majority of a population is under the age of 30) are four times more likely to erupt in revolution. We are seeing this phenomenon throughout the world today, as young people are on the forefront on almost every social movement for change. 

In Cambodia, more than two-thirds of the population are under 30. Cambodia's Youth Bulge means major challenges in a country still rebuilding after a devastating war that few knew firsthand.

At the last election, the government-controlled media found that young people were bypassing the usual propaganda and spreading information and amateur political videos via Facebook and Twitter. For the first time in more than two decades, Cambodians realized that political change might be possible and voted accordingly.

There is no doubt that increased internet access will facilitate more of these revolutions and uprisings - for good and for ill. It's a wildfire that is impossible to tame.

But I'm hopeful that Facebook's internet drones will also help us offer positive connections, empowerment, a vision for service, and resources for grassroots initiatives like the Alongsiders movement. 

And that's a vision worth Liking and Sharing.