SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has struck a deal with operator Airtel to offer Zambian subscribers in rural areas an app to connect them to the internet without data charges.
The app is called Internet.org, and Facebook said that it is launching in Zambia before moving to other areas ahead of a global release.
Facebook product management director Guy Rosen said that the app is a reaction to the poor take-up of internet services in certain areas, and a way of encouraging use.
"Over 85 percent of the world's population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30 percent of the total population accesses the internet," he said.
"Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to internet adoption for many and today we are introducing the Internet.org app to make the internet accessible to more people by providing a set of free basic services.
"With this app, people can browse a set of useful health, employment and local information services without data charges. By providing free basic services via the app, we hope to bring more people online and help them discover valuable services they might not have otherwise."
The app, which Rosen said was available for Android devices, will provide users with easy, free access to sites including Facebook, Wikipedia and Google Search as well as health-related information pages, weather, news and rights group pages.
"The Internet.org app will be available first to Airtel subscribers in Zambia and we'll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world," he added.
Internet.org is comprised of Facebook and six mobile phone firms, including Samsung, Nokia and Opera. µ