By Iminza Keboge
Published January 2, 2016
Mobile phone users in 17 African countries can access various websites and services with no data charges.
The service, known as Free Basics, enables users to access information on education, jobs, communication, health, business and local news. It is currently available in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Zambia, Malawi, Angola and South Africa.
Provided in collaboration with telecommunications service provider, Bharti Airtel, Free Basics shall be rolled across all the 17 countries in which Airtel operates by March 2016.
â€œAirtel Africa had already been working with Facebook since 2014 in enhancing accessibility to the internet in an affordable manner through the launch of Free Basics in Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Seychelles and Rwanda. With the launch of Free Basics, these markets will also now have access to more free services and the Free Basics platform,â€ a media release issued in Nairobi in November 2015 says.
Facebook says â€˜more than 60 new services are availableâ€ on its Free Basics Platform across 29 countries in Africa, Asia and South America.
â€œWhen people are connected, they can achieve extraordinary things as individuals and as a community. Connectivity brings opportunity for people around the world, and weâ€™ve seen this firsthand here in Africa, where we began this journey,â€ says Ime Archibong, director of strategic partnerships at Facebook.
â€œWe are excited to continue our partnership with Airtel in bringing more people online,” says Chris Daniels, Vice-President in charge of Facebookâ€™s Internet.org through which the service is provided. “More than one billion people have access to Internet.org’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America today. Our intention is to help the people in Africa access relevant basic services that will help them improve their lives and also lead to more adoption of the internet.â€
â€œI am especially pleased to note that the platform encourages developers to create local content which helps customerâ€™s access services in a language they understand and also keeping them connected online,â€ Daniels concludes.
Airtel customers currently using the app and mobile website will continue using the Android app that will now be called Free Basics by Facebook in Google Play. And the mobile web version, which will redirect from the previous URL, can be accessed at FreeBasics.com.