Facebook offers free internet access in Phl

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Facebook Inc. founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday the launching of an app that offers free mobile Internet services in the Philippines.

Smart Communications Inc. has partnered with Facebook to introduce the Internet.org app that would give free Internet access to 24 mobile sites, which include online messaging services.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Smart Communications president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno said the partnership would involve the introduction of the Internet.org app to offer mobile Internet services without data charges to subscribers of Talk ‘N Text, the brand targeted for the larger segment of the population, as well as other brands Smart and Sun.

“Smart’s partnership with Facebook is a big boost to our ‘Internet for All’ campaign, an advocacy we have been strongly pushing for. By launching Internet.org app with Facebook in the Philippines, we are making useful information within reach of millions of Filipinos,” Nazareno said.

According to estimates from the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines, only 38 percent of the country’s population had Internet access by the middle of last year.

The Facebook-led initiative aimed to make mobile Internet services available to two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected, said Zuckerberg in his Facebook post.

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“We’re one step closer to connecting the world as we launched Internet.org in the Philippines. Now everyone in the country can have free access to Internet services for health, education, jobs and communication on the Smart network,” he said.

Zuckerberg also posted on his Facebook account a photo of a tricycle passenger using Facebook and the Internet on her phone to stay in touch with loved ones in Dubai.

The Internet.org app provides mobile users free access to selected websites, such as ask.com, bing.com, dictionary.com, wikiHow and Wikipedia for general information, philstar.com and interaksyon.com for news updates, ESPN and spin.ph for sports events, Accuweather and RainCheckPH for weather alerts, and online reading and writing platform Wattpad.

Through the Internet.org app, smartphone users could also log into the official website of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) at TESDA.gov.ph to check out its offered programs and training, Jobstreet for job opportunities and olx.ph for online retailing.

Subscribers may also use the services of Facebook and Facebook Messenger through the app.

The services can be accessed through the Internet.org Android app or by visiting www.internet.org using a mobile browser.

Smart Communications chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters the partnership is expected to support the growth of the business.

“I think it (network) will be stimulated a lot because Facebook is a great name but how much, it is early days,” Pangilinan said.

Smart Communications is the first telecommunications company to launch the app in the country. The partnership also marks the first time that Internet.org would be available in the Southeast Asia region.

The Internet.org app has been rolled out in six countries since its introduction last year – Colombia, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Zambia.

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