There are around 4.25 billion people on earth who live in places where there is existing cellular network coverage, but do not have access to the internet either because they cannot afford to access due to high data prices, or because they simply do not know what the internet is and can offer.

Facebook altruistic arm, Internet.org is tasked with getting access to the internet to every one of these people sometimes by drone or by satellites with lasers but today is through an app launching in Zambia.

The Internet.org service will initially be available to customers using the Airtel network and gives free, basic access to a host of services including the ability to run Google web searches and to use Facebook Messenger to communicate.

The service can be accessed in one of three ways: either from the Facebook for Android app – where the Interenet.org service has been given its own tab – or the Internet.org app – which weighs in at a less-than-hefty 800 kilobytes – or by visiting the Internet.org website from a smartphone or feature phone web browser.

Using any of the three access methods a selection of apps are available for free to use including:

  • 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, which was developed by the Johannesburg based Praekelt Foundation
  • 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

While access to the service remains free, both Facebook and Airtel stand to gain  by getting more people online. Airtel will be hoping that by offering a small bite of the internet as a whole it can entice customers to spend money on buying larger data bundles to experience more of what the internet has to offer.

Facebook, on the other hand, has almost entirely exhausted its supply of new users from the developed world and has turned to the developing world to bolster its subscriber base in the future. More users also means more advertising revenue from previously untapped markets.

[Source – FB Newswire, Via – TechCrunch]