Facebook app to offer free Internet in Zambia
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Facebook app to offer free Internet in Zambia

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Two-thirds of the WORLD is NOT ONLINE - 85 PER CENT of world's population lives in areas with RESTRICTED INTERNET ACCESS

Two-thirds of the WORLD is NOT ONLINE - 85 PER CENT of world's population lives in areas with RESTRICTED INTERNET ACCESS

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  • 1. July 31, 2014 9:21 am Facebook app to offer free internet in Zambia By Hannah Kuchler in San Francisco ©Bloomberg Mark Zuckerberg Facebook has created an app to offer free basic internet services to users in emerging markets as part of its push to “connect everyone” and expand its user base beyond the 1.3bn people who already use the social network. It is also teaming up with a mobile carrier in Zambia to offer free access to job searches, weather forecasts and Wikipedia on its new Internet.org app. The app, named after a project to extend the internet to the two-thirds of the world who are not online, allows people to access these services, as well as Facebook and the company’s Messenger app, without paying data fees. Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, said increasing internet participation over time would “probably be good for us [Facebook] several times over”. The new app will be available first to subscribers to Airtel, one of the largest carriers in Zambia. It works on both smartphones and the more basic feature phones that are common in developing countries. Guy Rosen, product management director at Internet.org and founder of Onavo, a start- up acquired by Facebook last year, said the app would help overcome the two main barriers to internet adoption: people not knowing why they would want to use the web and not being able to afford it.
  • 2. “Awareness is a problem, people don’t really know what the internet is. It is a vague and abstract concept so they don’t know what it can do for the lives and livelihood,” he said. Mr Rosen added it was designed to be easy to use and not eat up huge amounts of data. “It is simplicity, it is not a big sexy app,” he said. While Internet.org is probably most famous for developing drones to beam down connectivity to the most far flung corners of the world, this app will help them target the 85 per cent of the world’s population that lives in areas with only cellular coverage. Tech blog Mr Zuckerberg started Internet.org, an industry coalition that is working to deliver the internet to everyone and to offer basic internet services for free. “We think that we can do this in a way that gets people access to some basic services while increasing the overall number of subscribers and profits for the overall industries [so] people can invest more in building out this infrastructure even more,” Mr Zuckerberg said. Facebook has agreed many deals with telecoms companies around the world to ‘zero rate’ the Facebook app, allowing people to access it without paying for data. Mr Rosen said these had been successful for the carriers because those who can afford it, often spend more on data when they understand what the internet can offer. “Our vision for free basic services is to make them an on-ramp to the internet,” he said. hannah.kuchler@ft.com