Facebook isn’t holding back getting Internet.org, its app providing free data access to resources and information, into the wild. The service launched in its first market (Zambia) at the end of July, came to Tanzania two weeks ago, and will now go live in a third country — Kenya — this week.
The move was announced by Facebook at the AfriCom event in South Africa this morning, and is being launched in partnership with operator Airtel, which is also responsible for bringing the app to Zambia.
For those who haven’t heard of Internet.org, the coalition was launched by Facebook last year as a way to connect the estimated two-thirds of the world’s population who do not have internet access. Through Internet.org, Facebook is working with a bevvy of telecom and technology companies to enable users to gain access to certain services from their phone without cost.
In the case of Kenya, Airtel customers will able to access the following news, information and communication services via the Internet.org app:
- BBC News
- BBC Swahili
- BabyCenter & MAMA
- Daily Nation
- Facts for Life
- Girl Effect
- Jamii Forums
- Facebook Messenger
- UNICEF Ebola Information
Interestingly, as Josh pointed out during during the Tanzania launch, Facebook appears to have removed Google search from the list of supported services. It was available on launch in Zambia, but is not on the list for Tanzania or Kenya either. That might be down to the fact that clicking on search results brings up websites that are not free, or it could be a tactic move from Facebook to avoid helping a rival.
Facebook this week revealed its Messenger chat app now has 500 million users and, with the service itself used by more than 1.2 billion people per month, the company is moving out to reach those who — for many reasons — do not enjoy the “basic right” of internet access, as Mark Zuckerberg refers to it.
Though this program is philanthropic, it stands to reason that Facebook could benefit massively by helping new internet users into an ecosystem of services that it choses and, which of course, include its own social network and messaging app.