Facebook trails ‘free’ internet access in Zambia… but only for select sites


Facebook is testing is free internet access scheme in Zambia, giving mobile and web users access to a select number of sites.

On Thursday, the company launched its first app for Internet.org, a partnership among tech giants to beam wireless service to developing markets.

The new app, currently only avaialable in Zambia to subscribers of local wireless carrier Airtel, lets users access a select number of services without racking up data charges.

The sites and apps include Facebook, Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, a weather service and an app promoting women’s rights.

“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,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the app.

‘Next billion users’

Earlier this year the company unveiled a plan to use drones, satellites and lasers to provide Internet access in remote places. So far, Facebook says it has brought 3 million people online who previously had no Internet access.

Facebook is keen to reach the ‘next billion’ consumers in developing markets as the social network’s growth rate is slowing in Western markets.

But the company has to get people in those countries online before it can convince them to join Facebook.

Facebook says it plans to bring the Internet.org app to other parts of the world in the future.
Google is implementing a similar strategy through Project Loon, a plan to provide Internet access in remote areas via balloons.

A list of some websites included in the free access scheme are listed below:

• Facebook – for staying in touch with friends
• Facebook Messenger – for direct contact with loved ones
• Google Search – to find information, though clicking through to results will require a data plan
• Wikipedia – to learn about anything, and all internal Wikipedia links are free to access
• AccuWeather – to get updated weather information that’s critical for farmers
• Airtel – to learn more about the carrier and buy data plans
• eZeLibrary – to learn about Zambian government information
• Facts for Life (by UNICEF) – to find heath and hygiene info including advice on pregnancy, childbirth, childhood illnesses, child development, parenting, protection, and child care
• Go Zambia Jobs – to search for jobs
• Kokoliko – search for jobs
• MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action) – Info on maternal health for impoverished mothers
• WRAPP (Women’s Rights App) – learn about women’s rights and what to do if rights have been violated
• Zambia uReport (by UNICEF) – To find HIV and AIDS health info

Watch this video from Bloomberg explaining how the service works below:

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