PANAMA CITY —Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fusion Thursday that eventually expanding into Cuba "definitely fits within our mission," but that he couldn't comment specifically about plans at the moment.
After speaking at a hemispheric summit of CEOs in Panama City, in which he announced Facebook's plans to bring Internet.org to Panama in the "coming weeks and months," Zuckerberg was asked what he thinks about the opening of relations with Cuba, and what opportunities he sees in the island nation.
"Our mission in Facebook is to help connect everyone in the world," Zuckerberg told Fusion. "There are more than 1.4 billion people who use Facebook today, every month around the world. And as the biggest Internet service around the world, we [have a] responsibility to not just to help people connect through the software we build, but also help people get onto the Internet so they can use all the different services that the Internet can bring. We take that responsibility very seriously.
"So that means that in the fullness of time, we are going to want to be able to connect people across every country in the world. Now there are some countries that don't have open economic policies today, where it's not possible for us to operate. But one day, as Cuba starts opening up, it will be something that we might consider at that time — that definitely fits within our mission."
Only 16 percent of Cubans currently have access to the Internet, and only 40 percent of those say they use social media, according to a Bendixen & Amandi Poll for Univision Noticias and Fusion, published Wednesday in collaboration with The Washington Post. The poll, however, found that more than 90 percent of Cubans who use social media prefer Facebook over other social platforms.
The poll also found that 61 percent of Cubans have cellphones, though they're not 3G. Still, cellphone coverage means Cuba's great technological leap to Internet coverage is doable.
Zuckerberg noted that Facebook has already been able to bring Internet.org, an initiative that provides basic free Internet services, to a handful of African nations, parts of India, Colombia and Guatemala, precisely because most of the world now lives in an area that gets some type of cellphone coverage.
"One thing that I think people often overlook is that the vast majority of people already live within range of the network," Zuckerberg told the roomful of CEOs. So the reasons that two-thirds of the people around the world still don't have access to the internet are "more economic and social than technical," Zuckerberg said.
Initiatives like Internet.org are trying to narrow that divide, he said.
"This summit is bridging the Americas, and that's what we hope to do with Internet.org as well," the Facebook CEO said.