A new app will give mobile phone users in Africa access to Facebook and other websites for free, connecting them to the rest of the world.
The app has been launched in Zambia by mobile operator Airtel and will offer a simple Facebook experience for free on mobile phones. It is being provided by app group Internet.org app which will supply Facebook but also a number of other web services.
Users will get access to Wikipedia, job sites, weather forecasts, and information about health, all without paying any data charges. It’s the new frontier for the internet – connecting billions of people in Africa and Asia who have yet to sample the delights of the digital world.
Guy Rosen of Internet.org says the plan is to harness the 85% of people who aren’t connected to the internet who are in places with mobile phone coverage. This is caused by one of two reasons – awareness and affordability.
The plan in Zambia is to address both those issues. Users will be able to access these web services from simple feature phones by visiting the internet.org website, and they will get a warning if they stray onto sites where data charges apply
Only 15% of the 15 million people in Zambia have used the internet so far – now it is hoped that many more will try it. If the pilot is successful, the same method will be used with other mobile operators in other parts of Africa.