The cost of data access is one of the top obstacles to the developing world getting on the web, so today Internet.org gave free data access to basic web services and local resources to Tanzania with the release of its Internet.org app through carrier Tigo. Facebook’s Internet accessibility initiative released a similar app in Zambia in July, and now Tanzanians can use Facebook, Messenger, BBC News, and Wikipedia plus get local news, health info, online education, classifieds, and sports coverage. Users can buy access through Tigo if they want to explore more of the web.
The Internet.org app works as both an Android app for smartphones available through Google Play and a mobile website accessible to feature phone users in Tanzania.
The Tanzania version includes the following services for free:
- AccuWeather – Weather
- BabyCenter & MAMA – Childcare info
- BBC News & BBC Swahili – World and regional news
- BrighterMonday – Jobs board
- The Citizen – Tanzanian English news site
- Facebook – Social network
- Facts for Life – UNICEF health info
- Girl Effect – Young women’s health and anti-poverty info
- Messenger – Facebook’s chat app
- Mwananchi – Tanzanian newspaper
- Mwanaspoti – Sports news
- OLX – Classifieds
- Shule Direct – Online education
- SuperSport – Sports news
- Tanzania Today – Local news
- Wikipedia – Online encyclopedia
One notable difference between the Zambia and Tanzania versions of the Internet.org app is that Tanzania’s doesn’t include free access to Google Search. I’ve reached out to Internet.org to ask why. One potential reason is that since Zambian Internet.org app users could only access search results pages for free but not tap through to the results, the experience may have felt stilted.
Internet.org is designed as a philanthropic project to connect the rest of the world to the Internet, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called a “basic human right”. But if the Internet.org’s satellites, drones, and app succeed in delivering free basic Internet with Facebook included, it could turn a generation of new web users into loyal Facebookers.