Facebook's Internet.org app launches in East Africa

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Facebook is broadening the scope of its Internet.org initiative in Africa, launching its app for the program in the East African country of Tanzania.

In July, Facebook launched its Internet.org app in the Southern African country of Zambia.

Tanzanian mobile phone operator Tigo has announced that it is offering customers an opportunity to buy low-cost smartphones for them to be able to access the Internet.org app.

Facebook and other tech companies launched Internet.org last year as a project to make the Internet accessible to people in emerging markets. Facebook has been working with local telecom providers to roll out Internet.org apps free, with options to upgrade to paid services.

Facebook’s Internet.org app provides people with free access to basic internet services so they can browse useful health, finance, educational, employment, communication and local information and services.

The Facebook app made available in Tanzania Wednesday allows Tigo subscribers free access to BBC news, Super Sport, Facebook, weather and messenger, among other services.

As in many other countries in Africa, very few people in Tanzania can afford to pay for Internet connections because data plans are still expensive, despite the number of undersea cables as well as satellites servicing the region.

A recent report by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) shows that by June this year, the number of Internet users in Tanzania was 9.3 million, up from 7.5 million in 2012. However, Tanzania’s population is estimated to be 50.8 million, according to the World Population Review.

Tigo’s partnership with Facebook “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 David Zacharia, Tigo’s head of Data and Devices.

Andrew Bocking, product manager for Internet.org at Facebook, said in a statement that, “today we are expanding our program with Tigo in Tanzania beyond just free Facebook to include access to a suit of basic services in health, education, communication, finance, jobs and local information.”

Facebook and other tech companies launched Internet.org last year in an effort to make internet accessible to people in emerging markets where people are not yet connected. Facebook has thereafter been working with local service providers to roll out Internet.org apps free, with options to upgrade to paid services.

In Africa, Internet.org was first launched in Zambia in July this year and is accessible through Airtel network.

As in Zambia, U.N agency UNICEF’s Fact for Life, a publication with lifesaving information for children has already been added. The publication educates mothers how to respond to emergencies where there is an epidemic or outbreak of a disease.

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