Over 85% of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30% of the total population accesses the internet. Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to internet adoption for many.
Earlier today Facebook announced the Internet.org Android & web app to make the internet accessible to more people in the developing world by providing a set of free basic services, with free data access to a limited set of services including Facebook, Messenger, Wikipedia, and Google Search. It also provides local health, employment, weather, and women’s rights resources.
“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 services they might not have otherwise.”
Platforms like Facebook and Google have already reached billions of users. Their growth has finally plateaued and the only way to get more users on their platform is to get more people online. And that’s the exact motive of Internet.org, a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities and experts who are working together to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it.
The Internet.org app will be available first to Airtel subscribers in Zambia and will be rolled out to other parts of the world over the coming months.
Through the Internet.org app, Airtel customers in Zambia will have basic access to:
- Facts for Life
- Google Search
- Go Zambia Jobs
- MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action)
- WRAPP (Women’s Rights App)
- Zambia uReport
To promote the Internet.org app in Zambia there will be call-outs in the Facebook app, an awareness campaign, and notifications to Airtel subscribers. The country’s residents can then visit Internet.org from their smartphone or browser-equipped feature phone for an entirely free entry point. Alternatively, they can pay for a little data to download the Internet.org app that’s just 800 kilobytes, or the Facebook For Android app where the Internet.org app is baked into a tab.
If the app succeeds in Zambia, you can expect the Internet.org program will be rolled out to other carriers and countries in the developing world, where data affordability and internet awareness are persistent issues.
This will be a great strategy for Facebook as if it’s one one of the first ways people experience the Internet, they won’t forget it as they become full-fledged Internet users. Seems like philanthropy can be a nice business model for the internet giants.