Internet.org have today announced their free App initially to be made available in Zambia with a view to rolling it out to other countries. Airtel is the carrier/provider
The rationale is fairly simple. “Over 85% of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30% of the total population accesses the internet.”
Limited services will be available in Zambia as follows (our links are to the Zambian sites where possible – many of course are mobile versions):
- Facts for Life
- Google Search
- Go Zambia Jobs
- MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action)
- WRAPP (Women’s Rights App)
- Zambia uReport
We’re impressed and we think it is a very positive move. Elsewhere others including Gigaom list both their positives and negatives.
- “PRO: They provide access to those who previously lacked it.
- PRO: They give carriers a way to show people what the internet does and then sell them up to paid data services (which is why the carriers aren’t even charging Internet.org for carrying its data.)
- PRO: They give included web services the growth Wall Street craves.
- CON: If users don’t pay up to exit the walled garden (and for many, why would they?) then it stymies any rival web service, by making it harder for people to find them, let alone use them. In other words, zero-rating entrenches powerful monopolies, hurts competition and potentially slows down innovation.
- CON: If your web experience is mediated through a monolithic portal, that undermines privacy — everything you do and look at is funnelled through one profiling gate, with the results going to advertisers and potentially spies.
- CON: There’s an immense risk to free speech. Particularly in more authoritarian countries – and there are quite a few in emerging markets – state censors must love the idea of everything passing through one portal. It makes their job so much simpler.”