Airtel Africa reportedly plans to roll out Facebook’s internet.org initiative to more countries across Africa from next month, following its initial launch last year.
Airtel first launched the service to its customers in Zambia in July 2014, before expanding to additional African markets in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
In an interview with the Press Trust of India (PTI), internet.org’s VP Chris Daniels (pictured) said Facebook had a “strong partnership with Airtel”, and the companies want to rollout throughout Africa “after this month”.
Internet.org, which offers mobile internet users access to a selection of websites for free in emerging markets, has also launched in South Africa with Cell C, in Tanzania and Senegal with Millicom and in Angola with Movicel.
On the first anniversary of launching the internet.org app, Facebook said last month it was working closely with “more than a dozen” operators across 17 countries.
The initiative first launched in India in February, after Facebook partnered with Reliance Communications, but the scheme has been met with a backlash in some parts on the grounds that it threatens the principles of net neutrality.
A number of Indian tech firms have since pulled out from a sponsored content arrangement, and the country’s telecoms regulator has also hit out at the initiative.
In the interview with PTI, Daniels defended the initiative, stating “what the critics are saying about internet.org really isn’t true”.
“Internet.org is not a walled garden; it is a gateway to the broader internet,” argued Daniels. “It’s bringing people online more quickly. This programme is achieving the goal Digital India is setting out to accomplish, to bring people online.”