Facebook has created an app to offer free basic internet services to users in emerging markets as part of its push to “connect everyone” and expand its userbase beyond the 1.3bn people who already use the social network. The app allows people to access these services, as well as Facebook and the company’s Messenger app, without paying data fees.
Internet.org an industry coalition between Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm have chosen to deliver internet to nearly 5 billion people, starting for free in Zambia.
“There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it,” said Zuckerberg.
Facebook develops app
Facebook has developed the internet.org’s partnerships app. The new app will be available first to subscribers to Airtel, one of the largest carriers in Zambia. It works on both smartphones and the more basic feature phones that are common in developing countries.
Guy Rosen, product management director at Internet.org and founder of Onavo, a start-up acquired by Facebook last year, said the app would help overcome the two main barriers to internet adoption: people not knowing why they would want to use the web and not being able to afford it.“Awareness is a problem, people don’t really know what the internet is. It is a vague and abstract concept so they don’t know what it can do for the lives and livelihood,” he said. The app was designed to be easy to use and not eat up huge amounts of data. “It is simplicity, it is not a big sexy app,” he added.
“With this app, people can browse a set of useful health, employment and local information services without data charges. By providing free basic services via the app, we hope to bring more people online and help them discover valuable service they might not have otherwise,” Facebook explains.
The app will only be available to Airtel subscribers in Zambia before internet.org rolls it to other parts of the world. Subscribers will have access to Wikipedia, Messenger, Go Zambia Jobs, Google search, Facebook among other web services.
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