“To continue connecting the world, we have to connect India” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO at Facebook.
Bringing free Internet access to Indian’s who don’t already have it is the internet.org initiative, introduced in the country through a partnership between Facebook and Reliance Communications.
The two companies held a joint press conference in Mumbai today to launch the internet.org mobile application that will be exclusive to RCom subscribers in the states of Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana. Through the app, people will be able to browse a set of useful health, employment and local information services without data charges. (More information on available services here)
The list of free services in India includes:
Career & Jobs: Times Jobs, Babajob
Education & Knowledge: Wikipedia, wikihow, Dictionary.com, Translator, Reuters Market Lite, Jagran Josh
Health & Social Welfare: Facts for Life (UNICEF), BabyCenter & MAMA, Girl Effect (Nike Foundation), iLearn (UN Women), Malaria No More, Socialblood, AP Speaks
News: BBC News, Times of India, India Today, NDTV, IBN Live, Aaj Tak, Amarujala.com, Daily Bhaskar, Maalai Malar, Maharashtra Times, Jagaran, Newshunt, Manoramanews.com
Search: Bing (from Microsoft)
Social: Facebook, Facebook Messenger
Sports: ESPN Cricinfo
Utility: OLX, Astro, Cleartrip, AccuWeather
The internet.org also rolled out an Innovation Challenge in India, in a bid to support those who who are working to make the internet more relevant to women, students, farmers and migrant workers. Individuals, organizations and groups building applications, websites or services can participate in the event, with the winner taking home $250,000.
Each of the other Innovation Challenge award winners will be entitled to a package of tools and services worth up to $60,000. The deadline for sending in entries for the challenge is April 30, 2015, while the winners will be announced in June 2015. (For more information on the Innovation Challenge, head here)
The internet.org is a partnership between Facebook and other technology leaders to provide basic Internet access for health, education, communication, jobs and local information purposes at absolutely no cost. Through this they hope to bring the Internet to the world’s unconnected population, uplifting the low income groups that can’t afford to subscribe to data.
Reliance Communication, which has about 60 million subscribers who don’t use its data service, hopes that internet.org will help introduce them to the benefits of the Internet. This can later spin off into an additional revenue stream when people start subscribing to data for greater access.
Oddly, Facebook tied up with India’s largest telecom service provider Airtel to bring internet.org to Zambia, Kenya and Ghana, but hasn’t retained the company for its introduction in India.