Internet.org app launch brings free web services to Zambia

Facebook-backed initiative unveils first app to help developing countries get online

internet

Internet.org's efforts to give the world's poorest areas access to web resources has taken a giant leap forward with the release of its first app.

The software is being released in Zambia to subscribers of the Airtel network who will be able to use it to access a range of free-to-use internet services.

These include Google Search, Facebook, Wikipedia, and AccuWeather, as well as job sites, messenger services, news outlets, and access to information about women's rights.

In a statement, announcing the app's launch, Guy Rosen, product management director at Internet.org, said the app is designed to take away the cost barrier for people wanting to access the web in developing countries.

"Over 85 per cent of the world's population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30 per cent 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 app to make the internet accessible to more people by providing by providing a set of free services."

Internet.org is backed by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and was launched in August 2013 with the goal of providing access to basic internet services to the entire world.

Discussing its launch at Mobile World Congress in February 2014, Zuckerberg said poorer countries stand to benefit a lot from this, as lack of internet access dampens their economic prospects and reduces the educational opportunities for their citizens.

In a Facebook post about the launch, Zuckerberg shed some light on the difference he expects the launch of the app to have on the lives of people in Zambia.

"Right now, only 15 per cent 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," he wrote.

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

To access the services, users must either visit Internet.org, download the Internet.org Android App or go via the Facebook for Android app.

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