Internet.org, a free Internet initiative launched by Facebook, has unveiled an application for Android devices and Web interface users in Zambia to gain free data access to Facebook, Wikipedia, Messenger and Google search.
Zambia is just the first in a string of countries where Internet.org plans to launch the app. Other developing countries will be able to access free Internet over the coming months. The organization partnered with local wireless carrier Airtel to provide the free Internet access with the goal of introducing Zambians to the Web and in return to get them to subscribe to various services offered by Internet giants.
A huge portion of the emerging markets is yet to go online, which sends the likes of Facebook and Google to get them aboard as they promise a big potential for growing the user bases of these companies. A free access is a good start. Not only will the people in Zambia take glimpse of the beauty of Internet for the first time, they might also decide to purchase premium data services and other online offerings.
The app includes Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, AccuWeather, Airtel, eZeLibrary for free access to Zambian government information, Facts for Life from UNICEF, Go Zambia Jobs, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action for maternal health info, Women’s Rights App and Zambia uReport from UNICEF for HIV and AIDS health info.
Aside from free Internet access, Zambians also get to experience resources for health, employment, weather and human rights. The Internet.org app is available as a standalone Android app that is embedded into the Facebook app, or as a free-access mobile website. Internet.org is an alliance between six telecom companies. That is on top of Facebook’s initiative to launch unmanned aerial systems and spacecraft to spread Internet on a wide swath of areas where people have no Internet access.
So how does this business model work? The free Facebook app offers call-outs, campaigns and notifications for Airtel users. These are all intended to further promote the app in Zambia.
Google’s inclusion in the app is a bit odd because it is not a partner with Internet.org, but Twitter is not on the list of apps accessible to Zambians. Anyway, Facebook and Internet.org do not pay Airtel for this. It is Airtel which pays for the free access in a way to ramp up its data access. Airtel says that through this business model, it can generate revenue using free limited access that might later compel users to buy data plans if they want to explore other Internet sites.