Earlier this year Zuckerberg declared that “the most expensive part about owning a smartphone and being connected to the internet isn’t the smartphone; it’s the data” - an issue that even the Western world can sympathise with.
Because alongside going abroad or maxing out your data plan, comes the worrying realisation that almost everything we do on our phones revolves around an internet connection. There’s no on-train entertainment from Youtube or Snapchat, no Whatsapp to message your friends (don’t be silly, nobody sends an actual text anymore) and no social media sites to post an angry rant on about how bored you are. So just imagine how 85% of the world’s 5 billion strong population feel, who simply can’t afford a data plan, let alone a foreign holiday to separate them from it. But its Zuckerberg’s own realisation - that no internet meant no sign up to Facebook - which has evolved into a new accessibility initiative called Internet.org. Launching today, the Android and web app will provide free data access to a specific set of services to the developing world starting with Zambia. The app is partnered with local carrier Airtel, who hopes that by providing access to a range of different sites including Facebook (and messenger), Wikipedia, Google, and information about health, jobs, rights and the weather, users will notice the value of the web, and buy data plans to increase their access. Despite its work on Project Loon, Google also hopes to monetize on Facebook’s altruism, as although users will be able to search for information, they will require a data plan to click through to results.
Hitting two birds with one stone, the launch follows Facebook’s other work with Internet.org, which plans to use drones and satellites to deliver internet connection to the 15% of the world’s population who can’t reach any network signal. So soon, Facebook will be able to cater for all 4.25 people: those who can’t afford to go online, and the others who just don’t understand it. Believe it or not, there are still some people blissfully unaware of the vague concept of The Internet, and how essential it is to most aspects of our lives. Although apparently not for much longer..
The app will consist of Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia as well as helpful sites such as AccuWeather (a weather report that could greatly benefit farmers), Airtel (to purchase additional data), eZeLibrary (information about the Zambian government), UNICEF’s Facts for Life (heath and hygiene information such as advice for pregnancy, childbirth, childhood illnesses, child development, parenting, protection, and child care), Go Zambia Jobs and Kokoliko (to search for jobs), MAMA (for maternal health information for example for impoverished mothers) WRAPP (learn about women’s rights and advice for violated women) and UNICEF Zambia uReport (for advice and information on HIV and AIDS).
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