Coming soon: Free Internet to rural areas

By: LILIAN OCHIENG

Kenyans in rural areas will soon have access to free Internet services after Facebook partnered with Airtel Africa to deepen its reach.

Airtel becomes the first telco to announce a deal with Facebook after a call mid this year urging industry players to take advantage of Internet.org.

The partnership marks preparations towards Facebook’s move to supply high speed Internet using drones to remote parts of Kenya by next year.

“Our intention is to help the people in Africa access relevant basic services that will help them improve their lives and also lead to more adoption of the Internet,” said Mr Chris Daniels, vice president of Internet.org.

The connection benefits Airtel by connecting the telco to more Internet users.

Facebook, on the other hand, rides on Airtel Africa’s deep connection in 17 African countries to extend its services to unreached areas.

Internet.org, which is already available in Kenya, goes by the name Free Basics and aims to introduce people to the Internet and demonstrate how it adds value to their lives.

The change of names came about after activists contested the service worldwide, noting that it wasn’t reaching the target audience – the poor. The portal will provide information on health, education and finance to enable them to make informed decisions that will improve their lives.

“With Africa’s widest 3G network, Airtel has been at the forefront of data revolution in Africa. We are cognisant of the power of Internet in changing lives of communities and this partnership with Facebook will aid in bringing more people online and reduce the digital divide,” said Mr Christian de Faria, managing director and chief executive officer of Airtel Africa.

Facebook is excited over Kenya, which has 2.2 million active users. Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya initially saw Facebook’s involvement in data as a big threat to their voice and data business.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION