MUMBAI: Facebook has tied up with Reliance Communications to offer free access to subscribers of Anil Ambani-led firm to the social networking site as well as about three-dozen general information websites.
With Facebook seeking to connect more people in the world’s second-biggest mobile market with internet, India will become the first country in Asia to get the new Internet.org app. The app targets mobile phone users.
“We still have a long way to go to connect India,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “But I’m optimistic that by getting free basic services into people’s hands, more change can follow pretty rapidly.” Besides accessing Facebook, RCom subscribers can also access 33 websites offering news and information on weather, jobs, government services, and health without incurring data charges.
“About 70% of people in India don’t have access to the internet. We need to connect a billion people to the internet. We are happy to announce that with Facebook we will offer free access to 33 popular websites,” RCom Chief Executive Officer for Consumer Business, Gurdeep Singh, said here.
The free websites include Facebook, ecommerce portal OLX, Cleartrip, TimesJobs, Babajob and sports website ESPN Cricinfo. The service has been initially launched for Reliance customers in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“We are committed to launching it on pan-india level within 90 days,” Singh said.
Zuckerberg in a video message said that last year his organisation had rolled out Internet.org free basic services to countries with more than 150 million people across Africa and Latin America. More than 6 million people, who were not connected to the internet, are now connected with it.
“But to continue connecting the world, we have to connect India. More than a billion people in India don t have access to the internet. Today’s announcement is just one step towards changing that,” Zuckerberg said.
He said internet should be made affordable for people. The companies did not disclose as to who will bear the cost of data that Rcom customers will access free of cost.