During its first year in existence, Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org initiative has brought free online access to more than one billion people in emerging markets but it turns out the service could also be beneficial for mobile providers’ bottom lines.
Launching first in Zambia, Internet.org has since teamed up with mobile operators in 17 countries with the goal of giving people free access to basic Internet services, including weather, health information, job advertisements and of course, Facebook.
Of the people who downloaded the Internet.org app, more than half chose to pay for data within the first 30 days of being online, according to a statement posted in the Facebook newsroom.
“These points show that Internet.org is not only a successful tool in helping bring people online, but it is successful in showing people the value of the internet and helping to accelerate its adoption,” the statement said.
People using Internet.org accessed health services more than one million times in the past month, according to Facebook.
While the reach of Internet.org over the past year has been a success, the project also faced its first major controversy in India when several Indian firms decided to pull out of the project due to concerns that the app does not provide equal access to information, one of the principles of net neutrality.
Zuckerberg announced in May the platform would be opened up to any developer who wishes to participate. Developers who want to be included in the Internet.org experience will have the chance to create experiences that adhered to the initiative’s technical specifications — which stress simple and data efficient websites.
Websites do not pay to be included in the Internet.org app and developers are not charged for the data people use to access their sites.
“Because these services have to be specially built to these specifications, we started by offering just a few,” a Facebook blog post said at the time. “But giving people more choice over the services they use is incredibly important and going forward, people using Internet.org will be able to search for and use services that meet these guidelines.”