First app trials in Zambia offering free online services

31 Jul 2014

Social network Facebook’s project is getting its first field test with the launch of its app in Zambia which will give free access to basic civil information including health and employment info.

The project has been in development for some time now in its effort to bring mobile internet capability to the entire planet through a series of aerial drones beaming broadband down to even the most remote places on the planet.

As things currently stand, according to Facebook, only 30pc of the world’s population has access to the internet despite 85pc having access to standard mobile communications.

The team behind and the app have signed a deal with the Zambian telecommunications network Airtel who, for no cost, will gain access to 13 services, including Zambian news and jobs, weather reports, the Women’s Rights App (WRAPP) and, of course, Facebook.

However, there are limitations to this free service.

According to Tech Crunch, the costs of users accessing this free data will not be paid for by Facebook or any of its other co-sponsors, but rather Airtel itself, which will use the app as a jumping point for other paid content.

When a person tries to click one of these links outside its free remit, it informs the user that a data plan will be in place that will charge them for its use.

Despite this, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg sees Zambia as the perfect place to test its capabilities.

“Right now, only 15pc 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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic