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Facebook Partners to Bring Free Data Access to India

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One of the first major steps has been taken by Internet.org towards completing its lofty goal of providing Internet connections for all with the launch of the Internet.org app and free basic services in India. Facebook and Indian telecom Reliance Communications collaborated on the launch, which was announced on Tuesday.

Internet.org was founded in August 2013 as a co-operative effort by a group of companies in web services and communications technology to bring Internet connectivity to under-served markets. It introduced the Internet.org app first in Kenya for Airtel subscribers in November.

At the Internet.org Summit in New Delhi late last year Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the challenges of providing internet access to the over one billion people in India without it.

The new Indian app is launching initially for Reliance customers in six of the country’s 29 states. It provides over three dozen services, including news, maternal health, communication, and local jobs and government information. The app provides services from Bing, Wikipedia, AccuWeather and ESPN, as well as other international and local sites.

The services can be accessed via an Android app, at www.internet.org, from the start screen of Opera Mini, or using the Android app UC Browser for Internet.org. Most services are available in seven languages.

“This is a big step forward in our efforts to connect everyone to the internet, and to help people share their ideas and creativity with the entire world,” Facebook said. “We’ll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world.”

A report released by Cisco earlier in February indicates that mobile data traffic is rapidly increasing, particularly in India and other emerging markets. If it successful in getting people online, Internet.org will not only benefit users, but could spur a huge expansion in the market for web services catering to developing regions and their citizens.

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