Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has talked a lot about the company’s Internet.org initiative in the past.
Yesterday, it launched the internet.org app for the first time in Zambia. The country has very low internet penetration because people don’t know a lot about internet and many of them can’t afford to pay for a connection. However, things might change for the better in the country as the newly launched Internet.org app allows them to access basic services like Facebook, Google Search and health apps for free.
Around 85% of the 5 billion people who are not connected to the internet simply cannot afford it. As mentioned above, many of the users in Zambia fall into this category. So, the app will open up new possibilities for mobile phone users in the country.
Users can access basic internet services on a web version or by downloading a standalone Internet.org app. While anyone can access the web version for free, those who want to use the app will have to pay data charges for downloading it. But the app itself will be free to use.
Facebook in partnership with Airtel has given access to a number of important services for free. Users can access Facebook, its messenger, Wikipedia, AccuWeather etc. for no cost. Even Google Search is available, but it’s free only till the search results as clicking on any links would take you to a different website which will be chargeable. Other services include, eZel library which contains information about the Government, Go Zambia Jobs and Kokoliko for searching jobs in the country, MAMA for information on maternal health for impoverished mothers, WRAPP which is a women’s right information service and Zambia uReport which gives information about HIV and AIDs.
It’s interesting to see that neither Facebook nor Internet.org pays for this service. Instead, Airtel takes care of providing all these facilities for free. But Airtel believes that giving users access to such free services will eventually lead them to buy more data plans. And those who can afford it can go to their nearest store and recharge with some credit for the internet. So, with the basic free model, Airtel hopes to enlighten users
about internet which may generate more data plan subscribers for the company.
If this service is successful, we may see more such Internet.org apps launch in other developing countries in partnership with telecom providers. So, we may soon see users living in the remotest areas enjoy the benefits of internet.
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