Facebook has announced partnerships with the Praekelt Foundation and Bharti Airtel Africa to expand the reach of its Free Basics programme.
Available in 29 countries, including 14 African markets, the programme provides relevant basic internet services to people in growing countries without data charges. It has connected 15 million people so far across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Airtel's initial launch will cover the DRC, Gabon, Niger and Nigeria before expanding to other markets. Currently, Free Basics is already available in Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Mobile phone users in these countries now have access to a set of websites and services with no data charges, in categories including maternal health, education, news updates, as well as local information. Free Basics provides free health, education, and economic information. Customers with an Airtel mobile connection will be able to access all the services that form part of Free Basics without paying extra for data charges or rental.
Christian de Faria, MD and CEO of Airtel Africa said, “Airtel has been at the forefront of the data revolution in Africa. We are cognisant of the power of internet in changing lives of communities and this partnership with Facebook will aid in bringing more people online and reduce the digital divide.”
“Connectivity brings opportunity for people around the world, and we’ve seen this firsthand in Africa,” said Ime Archibong, director of strategic partnerships at Facebook. “We launched the Free Basics Platform to work with as many developers, non-profits and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities.”
Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org said, “We are excited to continue our partnership with Airtel in bringing more people online. 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.”
Facebook has also revealed that the Free Basics Platform announced in May is now available to developers around the world. Facebook is collaborating with the Praekelt Foundation on the Praekelt Foundation Incubator initiative to support developers building for the platform.
The tools and lessons that emerge from this programme will be opened up to the public in 2016 to allow thousands more organisations to take advantage of the ubiquity of mobile devices and the potential of the internet to create sustainable change.
The partnership aims to increase and add to the mix of free websites and services available to users on this platform. It will also focus on providing the right tools as well as technical, content, capacity building and leadership support to organisations working in the social change environment.
Praekelt Group Founder and CEO Gustav Praekelt said: “Praekelt Foundation believes that access to essential information and basic services is a human right. When people have access to the tools and knowledge that the internet and other digital communication technologies provide, they have access to opportunities that will make their lives better.”