Facebook's Internet.org launches first app in Zambia

Facebook is looking to increase Internet access in underserved regions of the world and in turn increase its suite of apps.
By Ananth Baliga   |   July 31, 2014 at 11:44 AM
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MENLO PARK, Calif., July 31 (UPI) -- Facebook's non-profit project, Internet.org, launched a new app in Zambia that will give users access to free basic mobile data service.

The app was launched Thursday in partnership with Indian telecom provider Bharti Airtel and is part of a larger project undertaken by the social media giant to bring Internet access to the two-thirds of the world that doesn't have it. The app will give Zambians access to important health, employment and local information services without data charges, Facebook said Thursday.

The services offered by the app include Google, Wikipedia, AccuWeather and, of course, Facebook and Facebook Messenger. Despite its primary objective of wanting to bring Internet access to underserved regions of the world, Facebook is also looking to increase the number of users on its social network.

"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," wrote Facebook's director of product management, Guy Rosen, in a blog post.

According to Facebook, 85 percent of the world is close to cellular networks but only 30 percent use them to surf the Internet. The company said it hopes that by providing Zambians with limited free Internet access, users will want to expand their Internet access and buy additional plans from Airtel.

Facebook has a similar partnership with service provider Globe in Philippines and mobile carrier Tigo in Paraguay. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the number of Internet users doubled in the Philippines and Tigo saw a 50 percent increase in Internet users.

"The most expensive part about owning a smartphone and being connected to the internet isn't the smartphone; it's the data," Zuckerberg said at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, earlier this year.

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