Social networking giant Facebook has found itself in the vanguard of a mission to connect billions of people in Africa to the Internet through a new company called Internet.org.
The first stage of this plan is to connect millions of people in Zambia to the web. Internet.org’s Product Management Director, Guy Rosen, has identified that 85% of those who are not connected to the Internet are located in places where there is mobile phone coverage.
He goes on to highlight that there are two reasons why this mobile phone coverage has not lead to Internet access: cost and awareness. It is believed that people in these areas would find mobile browsing a costly tool and that they are unaware of the benefits it carries.
Mobile operator Airtel will offer people in Zambia free access to the Internet.org app, which will give access to a number of web-based services, including Facebook and Wikipedia, as well as other sites such as web pages for jobs, news and weather forecasts. However, users will be warned if they try to access sites that warrant charges.
Only 15% of Zambia’s 15-million-strong population have previously used the Internet and should this pilot project be successful, it could be expanded to many other countries.
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has shown a genuine interest in the Internet.org project, with the company’s involvement perhaps proving useful to its growth and brand awareness. This fits with its Internet marketing strategies to provide web connections to the more remote areas of the world.