Internet.org’s App offers free access to Facebook, Wikipedia in Zambia
Facebook’s affordable Internet initiative — Internet.org — has launched its app in Zambia which aims to provide access to a number of online services, like Facebook, Google and Wikipedia free of cost. Facebook, in collaboration with six other companies, took this initiative with an aim to provide internet at affordable prices in developing countries.
There are 4.25 billion people who are not connected to the Internet. Guy Rosen, Internet.org’s product manager, believes that these people fall in two categories — those who can’t afford Internet because of expensive data plans, and those who simply don’t know about Internet.
This app offers an entry point to online services for the people of Zambia. This will not only make them realize the importance of Internet but also help the carriers in persuading people to buy data plans. Airtel is working in collaboration with the company to provide free access to the Internet.
Online services that can be accessed through the app include Facebook, Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, AccuWeather, Airtel, eZeLibrary, Facts for life by UNICEF, Go Zambia Jobs, Kokoliko, Women Rights App, and Zambia uReport. Although users can search for free using Google search, they will have to pay to open links presented by Google Search.
The initiative seems to be an attempt to drive more traffic to Facebook but Facebook’s plans go beyond that. “We’re here to build a program that covers more than Facebook so we can accelerate the pace at which people are connecting to the Internet which is 9% a year,” says Rosen.
This initiative is a win-win for Facebook and for carriers like Airtel. As the people use free services and realize the importance of the Internet, they can be easily persuaded to buy data plans to access the rest of the Internet. A person who searches for “how to make a delicious curry” would not just stop at search results. He would want to open that tempting recipe link presented by Google Search.
This is the reason why Airtel is paying for all free access. When a user clicks on a link which is outside the free-access zone, a pop up will appear in the app notifying the user that charges will be applied for this data access. Hence simplifying the way data bundles are purchased. People can buy bundles simply by tapping a button in the app.
This initiative will benefit Facebook in the long run. A person who is new to Internet and uses Facebook for the first time to communicate with friends and family members will not forget Facebook as he moves on to other online services. Facebook will have a deeper impact on his mind.
“We believe that every person should have access to free basic internet services – tools for health, education, jobs and basic communication,” said Mark Zuckerberg.
If the app is success in Zambia, Facebook will move on to offer this app in other developing countries.