Guy Rosen, product management director of Facebook, announced on Thursday the launch of an Internet.org app for Android so that citizens of developing regions can access specific services online for free. The app is making its debut in Zambia for Airtel subscribers and will roll out to other parts of the world in the near future.
"Over 85% of the world's population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30% of the total population accesses the internet," Rosen said in a Facebook blog. "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."
The app grants users access to 13 free services including AccuWeather, Facebook, Google Search, Wikipedia and more. These services can also be accessed within the Facebook for Android app, and via the Internet.org website.
"With this app, people can browse a set of useful health, employment and local information services without data charges," Rosen said. "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."
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Internet.org back in August 2013 (PDF). The founding members also include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung. The goal is to bring Internet access to the "next five billion people."
"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect," Zuckerberg said back then. "There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."
According to the Internet.org website, one out of every three people can go online. The goal, then, is to make Internet accessible to the two-thirds of the world that are not connected, roughly five billion people. The founding members of Internet.org plan to "develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and government to bring the world online." They will address three key boundaries: making access affordable, using data more efficiently, and helping businesses drive access.
For more on the new app, AccuWeather talks about its free service in an announcement here.