App to Debut in Zambia

By David Cohen 

InternetOrgApp650Zambia may seem like an odd choice for the site of an application’s launch, but it makes perfect sense when the developer of that app has a mission statement of connecting the rest of the world. — the global partnership formed last August by Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung to “connect the next 5 billion people” — announced the launch of its app, starting with Airtel subscribers in Zambia.

The Android app will give Airtel subscribers in Zambia basic access to the following services via the app, the site or the Facebook for Android app:

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post:

One year ago, I announced, our effort to bring affordable Internet access to everyone in the world.

We believe that every person should have access to free basic Internet services — tools for health, education, jobs and basic communication.

Over the past year, we’ve been working with mobile operators around the world to deliver on this goal. We’re starting to see this vision become a reality, and we’ve already helped 3 million people access the Internet who had no access before.

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the app in Zambia. This provides people in Zambia with free data access to basic Internet services like the ones I mentioned above, and it means Zambia will now be the first country where we’ve been able to provide a whole set of free basic services.

Right now, only 15 percent of people in Zambia have access to the Internet. Soon, everyone will be able to use the Internet for free to find jobs, get help with reproductive health and other aspects of health, and use tools like Facebook to stay connected with the people they love.

This is a big step forward in achieving the mission of Facebook and We’re looking forward to bringing free basic services to more countries soon.

And Product Management Director Guy Rosen said in a Newsroom post announcing the launch of the app:

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. Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to Internet adoption for many, and today we are introducing the 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 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.

Readers: What are your first impressions of the app?