Facebook’s Internet.org, Praekelt Foundation team up to launch Free Basics incubator

Facebook’s Internet.org on Monday announced a partnership with the Praekelt foundation that will see the two launch an incubator for the Free Basics platform.

A crucial part of of Facebook’s Internet.org service, Free Basics is the part of Internet.org which allows people to access the internet for free. It also allows partners to create services that integrate with Free Basics.

The announcement, made in Cape Town, is designed to help interested organisations to reach out and connect with people on low-end smartphones, who might struggle to afford data on a day-to-day basis as well as feature phone users.

Update: A day after the announcement was made it received a mention in a post by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The incubator programme will provide support and resources to 100 independently-selected social change organisations. The tools and lessons that emerge from this programme will be opened up to the public in 2016 to allow thousands more organisations to take advantage of the ubiquity of mobile devices and the potential of the internet to create sustainable change.

The partnership reportedly aims to increase and add to the mix of free websites and services available to users on this platform. It will also focus on providing the right tools as well as technical, content, capacity building and leadership support to organisations working in the social change environment.

The Free Basics app has been available to South African users for some time now, although only to Cell C users.

The message from both Facebook and the Praekelt Foundation was that the platform and incubator are designed not just connectivity but entrepreneurship too.

“Throughout the Internet.org journey I’ve had a thesis,” said Ime Archibong, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Facebook. “And that’s that we’re going to roll this platform out, and it’s going to be local entrepreneurs who’re going to build the applications that get people connected”.

“The incubator specifically is designed to help local publishers and local content providers,” said Praekelt Foundation founder Gustav Praekelt.

That doesn’t just refer to organisations in the media space though.

According to Praekelt, the incubator is looking to help social impact organisations in fields such as healthcare, education, and social upliftment.

“We’ve had a number of organisations that wanted to get onto the platform and didn’t have the technical ability to get on,” the businessman and philanthropist said.

This isn’t the first time that the Praekelt foundation has worked with Facebook on Internet.org, having previously worked with it in other African markets, including Zambia.

“Over the last year,” said Praekelt, we have worked with NGOs to provide life-saving information to a potential audience of over 1 billion through Internet.org and the Free Basics Platform. We’ve never seen our work reach so many people so quickly. But we need to do more, and through the creation of the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics we will do just that.”

Reiterating the philosophy behind Internet.org, Archibong related how much increased connectivity had changed the world for people like himself, who have access to that connectivity.

Whereas his last trip to Cape Town, a decade ago, required extensive planning, he now felt comfortable using his phone to get everything he needed from the moment he landed.

“Today I had my mobile phone, I had the Lonely Planet app, and more information at my fingertips than I did back then”.

“Connectivity matters,” he reiterated. Large portions of the world’s unconnected poor, however, have little to no inkling of what even the most basic levels of connectivity could do for them.

“That discrepancy doesn’t sit well, and we want to do something about it,” he said.

According to Facebook, Internet.org has, to date, brought free basic internet services to people in 29 countries, including 14 in Africa, and brought more than 15 million people online.



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