Facebook has teamed up with Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI) to provide free Internet services including Wikipedia in Zambia.
The move has seen Facebook launch a mobile app that will give users in Zambia free access to a handful of online services on mobile phones,a move which has been viewed as an effort to boost Internet usage in developing countries in Africa.
According to Guy Rosen, the product management director at Internet.org who is also the founder of Onavo, a start-up acquired by Facebook last year, 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.
“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,” Guy Rosen said.
Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new app in Zambia marks the first time the company has added Web services beyond its own social network to the menu of free services.
In the partnership,Facebook will not pay Airtel for the bandwidth, but Airtel will benefit as users who are exposed to Internet services eventually decide to pay for broader, unrestricted access.
The app will also be available in additional countries over the coming months and years.
Story source: The Financial Times