Facebook, Airtel offer free basic internet to Nigerians

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, on Tuesday launched free basic internet in Nigeria and for Nigerians, in partnership with Airtel Africa.

Nigerians with an Airtel mobile connection will be able to access all the services that are available through Facebook’s Free Basics without paying for data charges or rental.

Free Basics provides basic mobile websites and services for free to people around the world, demonstrating the value the internet can provide.

In his post on the launch in Nigeria, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, wrote: “Today we’re partnering with Airtel Africa to launch Free Basics in Nigeria.

“There’s a lot of innovation across Africa right now, and Nigeria in particular is home to a lot of talented developers,” Zuckerberg said.

“In 2009, Olalekan Elude, Ayodeji Adewunmi and Opeyemi Awoyemi started a site called Jobberman in their dorm to help connect people looking for work with companies looking to hire. Now Jobberman is one of the top 100 websites in Nigeria, and it gets 5,000 applications every day.

“Free Basics offers Nigerians, including 90 million people who are currently offline, the opportunity to access news, health information and services like Jobberman that were built by Nigerians and other developers across West Africa — all without having to pay for data.”

“Free Basics is now live in more than 40 countries, and half of those are in Africa. Over the next few months, we’ll be doing even more to connect developers with people who can use their apps — and partner with local companies to bring internet to people across Africa who don’t have access to mobile networks.”

Free Basics will launch in Nigeria with more than 85 free services dedicated to health, education, jobs, and finance. To date, Facebook estimates that its connectivity efforts, which include Free Basics, have brought more than 25 million people online who wouldn’t be otherwise.

Airtel Africa will also be offering Facebook Flex in Nigeria, which allows people to access a version of Facebook without data charges.

This initiative is part of Facebook’s commitment to bringing people online and reducing affordability barriers.

Christian de Faria, MD and CEO of Airtel Africa, said: “We’re pleased to take this big step forward in our partnership with Facebook, bringing more people online in Africa’s most populous country and helping to further narrow the digital divide”.

Segun Ogunsanya, managing director and CEO of Airtel Nigeria said the step is a “significant milestone in our nation’s drive towards deepening digital connectivity and enhancing mobile broadband access for millions of Nigerians in line with the key objective of Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan (NBBP)”.

“It is our belief that this partnership, the first of its kind in Nigeria, will create a plethora of opportunities for millions of Nigerians, empowering them to connect to their dreams, realize their full potentials, and succeed in their professional and personal endeavours.”

Ime Archibong, director of global product partnerships at Facebook, added that Facebook has worked hand in hand with Nigerian developers to deliver Free Basics.

“We’ve spent time with the developer community here in Nigeria to understand how we can help people here build and create for their communities, and by bringing Free Basics to Nigeria we hope to provide another platform for developers to bring relevant services to people free of charge.

“At launch, we have more than 85 services included in Free Basics and hope to spur more development to bring relevant, basic services to Nigerians.”
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