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Facebook & Airtel to launch Free Basics in 17 African countries; philanthropy?

Facebook has tied up with Bharti Airtel to launch Free Basics (Internet.org renamed), Facebook’s net neutrality violating platform, to 17 South African countries by March 2016, reports TOI. According to Mark Zuckerberg, half of the 30 countries which have access to Internet.org are in Africa. Facebook and Airtel have partnerships in 6 countries, whereas two countries have the service with a different telecom provider. The Internet.org service will be live in Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Facebook will also be launching a satellite to provide internet coverage (unclear if this is the Internet or Internet.org) to remote areas in Sub Saharan Africa from the next year. Sunil Mittal: “Internet.org is not philanthropic”: Interestingly, in March this year, Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Mittal had said that Internet.org would only serve Facebook. “Zuckerberg is saying that make Internet.org lite version of Facebook free of data charge, so that people will upgrade. People will come to internet for the first time. The point is that it is self-serving for them,” Mittal said. (Related blast from the past: TRAI needs to take note of Airtel’s anti net-neutrality statements) Open source tools; testing advertising: Facebook has also tied up with Praekelt Foundation to support developers to build Free Basics services. This partnership revolves around an incubator which will provide 100 organisations with open source tools to create online services for the developing world. According to a Recode report, Facebook opened its first office in Africa in June…

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I'm a MediaNama alumna from 2015-16 (remember TinyOwl?) now back to cover e-services like food and grocery delivery, app based transport and policies, platforms and media in India.

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