Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Free Basics by Facebook expands internet access to millions of people in Africa

Praekelt Foundation and Facebook have announced a partnership that aims to accelerate the impact of Internet and more organisations to create services for the Free Basics Platform

Facebook kicks off its activities at AfricaCom 2015 by sharing the progress of Free Basics, a programme that brings relevant basic internet services without data charges to people in growing countries.

Facebook also shared the latest progress of the Free Basics Platform, which is now available to all developers around the world, and today together with the Praekelt Foundation (http://PraekeltFoundation.org) announced the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics, a global partnership to support developers building for the Free Basics Platform.

Facebook has, to date, brought free basic internet services to people in 29 countries, including 14 in Africa, and brought more than 15 million people online. Free Basics is now available to more than one billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Some of the African countries where Free Basics has been launched include Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal, Zambia, Ghana, Angola and Malawi. Mobile phone users in these countries now have access to a set of websites and services with no data charges, in categories including maternal health, education, news updates, as well as local information.

The program is making an impact on people’s lives by providing free health, education, and economic information. For instance, SmartBusiness, a website that helps people learn to launch and run a business, now sees 5x more daily searches within their service since launching in South Africa in July, meaning more people are getting access to important economic information. BabyCenter and MAMA both reach millions of people around the globe with vital health information for pregnancy and parenting, including 3.4 million people through Internet.org’s free basics services alone.


“When people are connected, they can achieve extraordinary things as individuals and as a community. Connectivity brings opportunity for people around the world, and we’ve seen this firsthand here in Africa, where we began this journey,” said Ime Archibong, director of strategic partnerships at Facebook.

Partnering with the Praekelt Foundation to support developers and social change organisations

Praekelt Foundation (http://PraekeltFoundation.org) and Facebook also announced the launch of a new partnership to support developers and social change organisations in their efforts to build accessible online services designed by and for people living in the developing world. Together with Facebook, and the support of Torchbox (https://Torchbox.com), we’re creating an open source toolkit of technologies and strategies that will empower organisations across the globe to adapt services for mobile and to create new ones, allowing them to distribute these services through the web and the Free Basics by Facebook platform.

To launch this initiative, Praekelt Foundation is creating an incubator programme that will provide support and resources to 100 independently-selected social change organisations. The tools and lessons that emerge from this programme will be opened up to the public in 2016 to allow thousands more organisations to take advantage of the ubiquity of mobile devices and the potential of the internet to create sustainable change.

The partnership aims to increase and add to the mix of free websites and services available to users on this platform. It will also focus on providing the right tools as well as technical, content, capacity building and leadership support to organisations working in the social change environment.

Praekelt Group Founder and CEO Gustav Praekelt said: “Praekelt Foundation believes that access to essential information and basic services is a human right. When people have access to the tools and knowledge that the internet and other digital communication technologies provide, they have access to opportunities that will make their lives better.”

Praekelt continued: “Over the last year, we have worked with NGOs to provide life-saving information to a potential audience of over 1 billion through Internet.org and the Free Basics Platform. We’ve never seen our work reach so many people so quickly. But we need to do more, and through the creation of the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics we will do just that.”

Register your interest to join the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics here: https://PraekeltFoundation.typeform.com/to/QekN63.

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