Facebook yesterday launched a new app that will enable people with mobile phones around the world to browse health, employment and local information services without data charges.
The ‘Internet.org‘ app will first be available to Airtel subscribers in Zambia and the company plans to roll out the service to other parts of the world. Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page that ‘Internet.org‘ aims to bring affordable internet access to everyone in the world. “We believe that every person should have access to free basic internet services – tools for health, education, jobs and basic communication. We are looking forward to bringing free basic services to more countries soon,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook’s Product Management Director Guy Rosen said that currently over 85 percent of the world’s population lives in areas which has cellular coverage, but only about 30 percent of the total population accesses the internet. “Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to internet adoption for many,” Rosen said adding that through the app people would be able to 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,” Rosen said.
Zuckerberg said the company has been working with mobile operators around the world over the past year to develop the app. Around three million people have so far been able to access the internet who had no access before. He said that currently only 15 percent of people in Zambia have access to the internet and soon everyone would be able to use the internet for free to find jobs, get help with reproductive health and other aspects of health, and use tools like Facebook to stay connected with the people. “This is a big step forward in achieving the mission of Facebook and Internet.org,” he said.
Through the app, Airtel customers in Zambia woud have basic access to websites that provide information about the weather as well as to Google Search and Wikipedia among others. Zuckerberg last year had announced the creation of Internet.org to help improve online access around the world.