Facebook said it is entering a new phase to how operators and developers join Internet.org, as it looks to scale up the affordable internet initiative.
The social media firm launched a new partner portal through which operators sign up for and turn on Internet.org. The portal, which includes technical tools and best practices, is an attempt to make the sign-up process easier. It is available from today (27 July).
In addition, the company has announced a new programme called FbStart that is designed for early stage mobile-based startups to help build and grow their apps.
In partnership with Internet.org, FbStart offers support to what it terms “social good developers”, as well as the opportunity for mentoring by the Internet.org team.
Facebook’s developer day today (27 July) in Nairobi saw the debut for FbStart’s tools and resources.
FbStart follows the recently announced Internet.org Platform that aims to encourage developers to create apps that integrate with the affordable internet initiative.
“Our goal is to work with as many mobile operators and developers as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities across Africa,” said Chris Daniels (pictured), Internet.org’s VP.
“We look forward to working in partnership with more mobile operators and developers to bring internet access and relevant basic internet services to the unconnected in the months to come,” he said.
Many happy returns
On the first anniversary of the debut of the Internet.org app, Daniels threw out a few statistics: Facebook has worked closely with “more than a dozen” operators across 17 countries on Internet.org. It is available to more than a billion people.
African countries where Internet.org has been launched include Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal, Zambia, Ghana, Angola and Malawi.
He also claimed that the initiative brings new users onto mobile networks on average “over 50 per cent faster after launching free basic services”. And Internet.org users accessed health services more than a million times in the past month.
Finally, more than half of people who come online through Internet.org are paying for data, and accessing the internet, within the first month, the kind of statistic that cheers operators.
The move to make Internet.org more transparent and inclusive has come 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.