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Facebook finally rolls out, bringing free Internet to Africa

Facebook has finally release its much-anticipated programme, designed to increase connectivity and access to online resources in the developing world.

The programme is being rolled out initially in the form of an app available to Airtel subscribers in Zambia, although the social networking giant plans to expand the programme in due course.

The app allows users to browse a set of useful health, employment, communication, and local information websites completely free, without any data charges.

Related: Is Mark Zuckerberg changing telecoms as we know it? (opens in new tab)

Sites available through the app include AccuWeather, Google Search, Go Zambia Jobs, Wikipedia, and, of course, Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg announced the start of the programme with a post on his Facebook page (opens in new tab).

"Today, I'm excited to announce the launch of the app in Zambia. This provides people in Zambia with free data access to basic internet services like the ones I mentioned above, and means Zambia will now be the first country where we've been able to provide a whole set of free basic services."

"Right now, only 15% 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."

Facebook released a 70-page whitepaper last year (opens in new tab), detailing exactly how it plans to help connect the globe to the web. Written in partnership with Qualcomm and Ericsson, the paper highlights how Facebook is working to connect more than a billion users while using less data and power.

There were also plans to use a fleet of orbital drones to improve connectivity around the globe, but those plans were put to rest when Google snapped up the prospective drone supplier, Titan Aerospace (opens in new tab), for an undisclosed sum.

For more, check out the introduction video below.

Read more: A closer look at Facebook's alliance (opens in new tab)

Paul Cooper
Paul Cooper

Paul has worked as an archivist, editor and journalist, and has a PhD in the cultural and literary significance of ruins. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The BBC, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Discover Magazine, and he was previously Staff Writer and Journalist at ITProPortal.