AFRICA — Bharti Airtel Africa, a telecommunications service provider with operations in 17 countries across Africa, and Facebook announced a partnership and to launch Free Basics in Africa.
Free Basics is a set of websites and services that introduce people to the Internet. The websites provide health, education and finance information to people in developing countries.
Facebook announced the deal at AfricaCom, a big mobile industry event in Cape Town. Free Basics is part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative to provide basic web service to people around the world.
In an initial phase, Free Basics will be launched in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Niger. Airtel mobile customers will have access to the Free Basics services without any extra fees. Seventeen African countries will have access to this platform.
“With Africa’s widest 3G network, Airtel has been at the forefront of the data revolution in Africa,” said Christian de Fario, CEO of Airtel Africa. “We are cognizant of the power of the Internet in changing lives in communities and this partnership with Facebook will aid in bringing more people online and reduce the digital divide.”
The launch of Free Basics allows for new markets to have access to more free services and the Free Basics platform.
According to Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org, more than one billion people have access to the group’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America today.
Facebook and Airtel have been working together since 2014 to provide affordable Internet services. Facebook also partnered with the Praekelt Foundation to give developers the tools needed to build Free Basics services in order to reach people just coming online.
Ime Archibong, Facebook’s director of strategic partnerships said, “We’re excited to partner with the Praekelt Foundation to provide more organizations and content creators with the tools and support they need to bring their services to Free Basics.”
According to Facebook, by June of 2015 the site had 120 million users in Africa; 80 percent accessed Facebook from their mobile devices.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, said, “Connecting people across the African continent is critical to our mission. We’re going to keep pushing forward to develop new ways to bring people online until the whole world is connected. Internet.org first launched in Zambia and today half of the countries with Free Basics are in Africa.”
Facebook recently announced that they are launching a satellite with Eutelsat to provide Internet coverage across sub-Saharan Africa next year.