From roughly 85 percent of the world's population that lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, only about 30 percent of them accesses the internet. The main reason for this is affordability and awareness barriers. In July 31st, 2014, Guy Rosen, Product Management Director of Facebook, announced on the launch of an Internet.org app for Android to make the internet accessible to more people by providing a set of free basic services.
Internet.org was first announced by Facebook in 2013 with the aim to bring internet access to places that are still "unconnected". Facebook partnered with other founding members that include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung. The goal is to bring internet access to the "next five billion people." Internet.org is hoping to bring the internet to people who don’t have it, for free without charging data fees.
The new mobile app allows people in developing countries to access basic services over the internet for free. These basic services are: AccuWeather, Airtel, eZeLibrary, Facebook, Facts for Life, Google Search, Go Zambia Jobs, Kokoliko, MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action), Messenger, Wikipedia, WRAPP (Women’s Rights App) and Zambia uReport.
Google’s inclusion seems a little odd since it has its own internet accessibility initiative Project Loon. Facebook said that content providers in the app don't need to be official Internet.org partners.
Facebook has partnered with over 150 wireless data providers over the past few years to be able to offer free to discounted access to the social network. However, the new Internet.org app to be launched in Zambia is the first time that additional internet services beyond access to Facebook will be offered.
Although Facebook Zero has been giving the developing world access to a stripped down version of Facebook since 2010 when it launched with 50 operators in countries around the world, the Internet.org app with other services will be available as a compact, standalone Android app, baked into the Facebook for Android app, or freely available as a mobile website that the feature phones carried by the majority of Zambians can access.
By providing free basic services via the app, Facebook says it hopes to bring more people online and help them discover valuable services they might not have otherwise.
"Right now, only 15 percent of people in Zambia have access to the internet," said Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg. "We believe that every person should have access to free basic internet services - tools for health, education, jobs and basic communication.".
The app, which is launching first in Zambia to Airtel subscribers. Airtel customers in Zambia can access these services in the Internet.org Android app, at internet.org, or within the Facebook for Android app.
After successfully bringing "free internet" to the country, Internet.org is aiming to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world. And we’ll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world.
Facebook, the one behind Internet.org, has accepted agreements from mobile app providers to not charge for the app. But Facebook as a company is still hoping to make money by charging data fees on other apps beside the ones said above. Although Facebook is introduced to new markets where the social network is not yet popular.
A Slice for Free
And if some people may wonder whether the word "free" has consequences, the answer is "yes". Accessing the services included in the app is completely free of charge, but links which lead to other, non-supported websites of the app will require users to pay for data charges. In addition, the free Facebook included in the app has video playback disabled. With Facebook and Google, the two largest website available for free on the list, are full of links to other places, the word "free" may not seem to be totally free of charge.
And because Facebook will not be paying Airtel for the consumed bandwidth. Airtel will be benefit from the app as the users that have access to the internet via the app will likely to choose to subscribe to the carrier's internet plans for wider and unrestricted access.
Although it can be a great plan for Facebook to make extra income, some people see this as a problem. This is because Zuckerberg once stated that Internet.org is a humanitarian mission to improve life on Earth, not a business plan.
In March, Facebook announced that its Connectivity Lab is working on using satellites, lasers and drones to provide internet access to people all over the world.
"We're looking forward to working with our Internet.org partners and operators worldwide to deploy these technologies and deliver on the dream of connecting the world," wrote Zuckerberg.