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Facebook introduces app in Africa which provides free Internet access

Facebook recently announced that it is introducing its app in Tanzania for the initiative The company previously launched its app in Zambia three months ago, according to ABC News. Tanzanian mobile phone operator Tigo is offering their users affordable smartphones to access the app.

Providing free Internet access is a project that aims to make Internet access available to people in developing countries. Facebook has partnered with telecom providers to avail the service, with options to upgrade if customers can afford it.

Andrew Bocking, product manager for at Facebook, commented that Facebook's initiative provides people in emerging markets with free access to basic Internet services so that employment, education, finance and health sites are within reach.

"Today we are expanding our program with Tigo in Tanzania beyond just free Facebook to include access to a suite of basic services in health, education, communication, finance, jobs and local information," said Bocking, according to the news source.

Tigo subscribers in Tanzania enjoy free access to messenger, weather, Facebook, Super Sport and BBC News.

As is true with many other countries in Africa, few people in Tanzania can afford Internet connections. According to the news source, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority reported that the number of Internet users in the country reached 9.3 million recently, up from 7.5 million in 2012. The country's population is estimated at 50.8 million however, which highlights the low penetration rate.

Penetration rates in emerging markets
David Zacharia, head of data and devices at Tigo, hopes that penetration rates will rise as a result of these new developments.

"[] will not only accelerate internet penetration in the country but will also open new socio-economic opportunities to the users in the fields of education, technology and commerce," said Zacharia, reported PCWorld.

Facebook launched in conjunction with other tech companies to make the Internet accessible to people in emerging markets. The company has continued to work toward getting local service providers to roll out apps for free, with the option to upgrade if subscribers can afford it.

With the all the news recently about Internet freedom, censorship and governance, it is also important to remember that Internet freedom may not even be a topic of discussion in certain countries, unless Internet access is made free! 

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