For many Zambians, it’s enough to have a smartphone. But affording a data plan there — as in many places in the world — can be prohibitive.
In fact, at least 5 percent of the 5 billion people without Internet just can’t afford them.
In an attempt to tackle that issue in Zambia, Facebook’s accessibility initiative Internet.org has launched an Android and web app for the developing world with free data access to a limited set of services including Facebook, Messenger, Wikipedia, and Google Search.
Reportedly, the service also offers local health, employment, weather, and women’s rights resources news.
The story was recently covered at Tech Crunch.
Zambia may be the first stop on the Internet.org world tour, but the organization has packed a big suitcase. It plans to do the same in other developing countries.
The group has a partnership with local carrier Airtel, which is providing the free access to those limited sites in hopes that Zambians “see the web’s value and buy pre-paid data through the app to explore the rest of the Internet.”
While the Facebook Zero initiative has been giving the developing world access to a stripped down version of Facebook since 2010, this new Internet.org app — available as a compact, standalone Android app — will correlate well with the feature phones carried by the majority of Zambians.
While some have criticized Facebook’s efforts as self-serving attempts to increase its own market dominance, Internet.org product manager Guy Rosen defends the project’s benevolent side.
“We’re here to build a program that covers more than Facebook so we can accelerate the pace at which people are connecting to the Internet which is 9 percent a year” says Rosen. “We really want to make that happen faster.”
There’s more to the story — go here to read it.