Facebook's launches first app

FACEBOOK'S initiative launched last year with the intention of working with industry companies to reduce the cost and hassle associated with getting online developing countries.

Now the project is releasing its first app for Android phones, providing free access to core services including Google search, government info, weather, job listings, Wikipedia, and - of course - Facebook.

The app is trialling in Zambia first, with plans to extend its coverage to other countries over time. It's available for both smartphones and feature phones and can also be accessed through Facebook's own main app.

Access will be free to any customers on Airtel Africa - a subsidiary of Indian telecommunications giant Airtel, and the market leader in numerous African countries including Chad, Gabon, Malawi, Niger and the Republic of the Congo.

Although Facebook was one of the first players to get involved with signing up 'the next billion' global internet users, it's now part of a wider effort that includes the likes of Google's Project Loon and the Alliance for Affordable Internet, backed by Tim Berners-Lee.

Although the social network has been accused of hiding commercial interest under the guise of philanthropy (after all, more internet users mean more customers) there's no doubt that offering free access to information about women's rights and maternity care in developing countries can only be a good thing.

However, that doesn't mean it's not slightly worrying that Facebook might decide what counts as a 'basic' internet service in the future (no one is surprised that Twitter doesn't make their list) and the scheme is still designed to make money for Airtel - one click outside the app and users are warned they're going to need to buy some data to carry on browsing. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Topics:  africa apps developing nations facebook mobile phones smartphones

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

UPDATE: Jockey remains in ICU at Coffs Harbour

INJURED: Jockey Kirk Matheson was injured in a fall during racing at Clarence Valley Jockey Club.

Injured jockey Kirk Matheson rushed into surgery.

PHOTOS: Meet our kindy students

Newrybar Public School

My First Year commemorates the start of school for kinders

Johnny Cash tribute will take you back to Folsom Prison

COUNTRY: Singer Daniel Thompson as Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash The Concert Revisits Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

Local Partners