SILICON VALLEY was once content to dominate the tech world. But recently, its leading companies have ventured deep into areas well outside its traditional bailiwick, most notably international development — promising to transform a field once dominated by national governments and international institutions into a permanent playground of hackathons and app-fueled disruption.
To observe this venture humanitarianism in action, look no further than Internet.org, a coalition of Facebook, Samsung and several other large tech companies that promises to bring low-cost Internet access to people in underserviced parts of the world, via smartphones. It has organized “efficiency hackathons,” where developers build apps that work on older phones, and it has lobbied cell providers not to charge for “essential” data usage, like weather apps and Wikipedia.
Illustration by Santtu Mustonen