Just days after being launched in Bangladesh, Facebook’s Internet.org has now made its way to Malawi, bringing the number of people who have potential access to its “100-plus free basic services” to 1 billion, while 9 million have used it to get “online for the first time”, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a blog.
Both of Malawi’s operators, TNM and Airtel Malawi, now offer the service and join ten other countries where Internet.org is available: Guatemala, Colombia, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, India, its biggest market, and Zambia, where it first launched in mid-2014 (click image below to enlarge).
Last week, Facebook introduced the Internet.org platform, an open programme for developers to create services that integrate with Internet.org.
The move to make Internet.org more transparent and inclusive came after Zuckerberg was forced to defend the initiative, following a number of Indian firms withdrawing from a sponsored content arrangement and the country’s telecoms regulator saying that zero-rating access may violate the principles of net neutrality.
“We’re also giving people more choice over the free basic services they can use,” the company added.
However, free apps such as Internet.org face further pressure in India, according to a report in Economic Times, which said the government could block so-called zero-rating in a final policy on net neutrality, although initiatives on health and education could be exempt.
Zuckerberg’s Malawi announcement last night also included information about Aquila, a solar-powered unmanned high altitude aircraft that is under development, which will “beam internet access to communities from the sky”. The drone has a wingspan of 42 metres, a flight altitude of 18 to 27 kilometres and 40 to 80 square kilometres of access coverage.