Free internet basics is 'non-discriminatory' - Facebook

Cape Town – Facebook insists that it’s Free Basics internet programme is an open platform as the company courts developers and publishers.

The giant social network announced at a media briefing in Cape Town on Monday that it's struck up a partnership with South Africa's Praekelt Foundation Incubator to support developers on the platform.

Free Basics is live in 29 countries. In South Africa is accessed via a mobile device with a Cell C SIM card.

“No money is changing hands. We are not paying developers and developers do not have to pay to be on the platform. It’s open, it’s free, it’s non-discriminatory,” Ime Archibong, director of strategic partnerships at Facebook told Fin24.

Facebook officials also said that applications on Free Basics should have a light data footprint, limiting images to just 200KB.

Social impact applications

“Operators have made significant economic investments to bring the internet to people globally, and Free Basics needs to be sustainable for operators so that they can continue to invest in the infrastructure to maintain, improve and expand their networks,” the organisation says on its website.

Facebook currently does not serve any advertising on the platform and you don’t need a Facebook account to access it.

Archibong hinted that other local networks would be joining the programme to allay fears of contravening net neutrality – the principle that no internet data or service should have priority.

“We’re definitely on the operators’ side trying to work with all the operators – it’s really just a matter of timing when the operators go live - but there’s no exclusivity. That’s been one of the big concerns – one of the big misnomers about the programme.”

The Praekelt Foundation is focused on social impact applications and the entity has partnered with organisations to scale their services to a wider online audience.

“When people have access to the tools and knowledge that the internet and other digital communication technologies provide, they have access to opportunities that will make their lives better,” said Praekelt Group founder and CEO Gustav Praekelt.

But Free Basics will not be limited to applications and content selected by Facebook, said Archibong.

“It’s an open platform so truly any developer or start-up; someone who has content – big company, small company interested in building access for the historically unconnected can have access to this developer pool and submit their site.”

Do you think other South African operators should join Internet Free Basics? Let us know.

Watch Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talk about the value of free internet access in this online video:

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