In what could be interpreted as a counter-intuitive display of altruism, Facebook has released a free app, Internet.org, which will provide free access to health, information, employment and local communications for customers with limited Internet service.
Users will be able to visit a specified list of sites with no data charges applied against their account.
The app will at first be made available to Airtel service customers in Zambia, with the goal of expanding access to other countries and continents.
Also somewhat counter-intuitively, the app is only available for Android devices. No iOS version seems to be in the works.
Guy Rosen, product management director, writes in a blog post, "Over 85 percent of the world's population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30 percent of the total population accesses the Internet. Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to Internet adoption for many and we are introducing the Internet.org app to make the Internet accessible to more people by providing a set of free basic services."
Facebook's intention is to provide free basic services to bring more people online and give them access to important services that they otherwise might not be able to enjoy.
A list of sites that are included in the free access program includes AccuWeather, Airtel, eZeLibrary, Facebook, Facts for Life, Google Search, Go Zambia Jobs, Kokoliko, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), Messenger, Wikipedia, Women's Rights App (WRAPP) and Zambia uReport.
Access to these sites at no charge is also possible through www.internet.org or within the Facebook for Android app.
Facebook had already stated over a year ago that one of its long-term goals was to bring Internet access to everyone in the world.
The release of the Internet.org app was heralded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on his Facebook page.
"We believe that every person should have access to free basic Internet services ... Over the past year we've been working with mobile operators around the world to deliver on this goal ... Right now, only 15 percent of people in Zambia have access to the Internet. Soon, everyone will be able to use the Internet for free to find jobs, get help with reproductive health and other aspects of health, and use tools like Facebook to stay connected with the people they love," wrote Zuckerberg.
Of course, in a fully connected world courtesy of Facebook, Facebook itself will also prosper greatly. But give props to Zuckerberg and Facebook for pursuing a worthy goal that will turn out to be a win-win for both Facebook and people who will be able to use Facebook (okay, and other sites, too).