Facebook-Backed Nonprofit Brings Free Internet To Zambia

Mat Honan | WIRED | July 31, 2014

When you think of the billions of people worldwide who don’t have internet access, you probably think of people living in very remote areas, where it simply isn’t available. But even though only a third of the people in the world are connected to the internet, 85-percent of the world’s population lives within the coverage area of a cellular network that provides over-the-air data service [PDF link].

In an effort to help those left behind join the digital age, Internet.org—the Facebook-backed nonprofit organization—is releasing an app providing free internet data access to a handful of core services to people in Zambia. The freely available services are mostly focused on health, employment and local information. It’s a great step—if just a step—to getting the rest of the world online.

As Mark Zuckerberg noted at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, “The most expensive part about owning a smartphone and being connected to the internet isn’t the smartphone; it’s the data.” This new initiative is an attempt to remedy the problem of cost by offering free data service to those who otherwise might not have the money to afford it.  Right now, the app and site will only be available to Airtel subscribers in Zambia, but the organization plans to make it available via more operators in more places across the globe in the coming months...