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Internet.org gives millions of Zambians free Facebook, Google on their phones

It’s made headlines with its seemingly crazy unconventional project to bring internet access to the developing world with drones and lasers, but now it seems Facebook’s Internet.org has simpler plans too.

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It has announced an Android and mobile web app, which will give users access to services like Google Search, the weather, Wikipedia and (of course) Facebook for free.

The Internet.org app is initially rolling out in Zambia in partnership with local telcom Airtel, where it will offer its more than 4-million subscribers access to health, employment and local news and information services without charging them for the data they use. They will also be able to access the services from inside the main Facebook for Android app, and use the web app on more basic feature phones.

Some of the websites which will be able to be accessed for free include:

The new app aims to introduce new users to the web and some of the ways they can use it (to gain information on everything from maternal health and women’s rights to job vacancies), in the hopes that it will provide a stepping stone for further usage. Airtel will give Zambians the option to buy data for more in-depth web surfing from within the app, and Facebook can continue on its mission to gain the next billion users.

Although the app is currently only available in the southern African country, Internet.org says it plans to roll it out to other parts of the world after monitoring usage and adjusting the functionality based on the pilot in Zambia.

The app follows similar moves into the emerging markets and mobile space, where Facebook has seen success before. Its Facebook Zero partnerships have seen it introduce a free, text-only version of the site to users of 50 mobile operators in 45 countries, and its feature phone app has more than a 100-million users and supports 3000 plus devices.

Google has also trialled similar projects, with its FreeZone tests in countries like South Africa and the Philippines.

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