Reliance Communications, a part of the Anil Ambani-led group, Tuesday said it has been roped in by Facebook to offer free access to data and web sites to customers through the social networking site’s global digital inclusion initiative, Internet.org. The Internet.org initiative will provide access to popular websites and services with zero data charge to make it easier for people to access the internet across both the 2G and 3G platforms, Reliance executives said at a press conference in Mumbai.
“Internet is the integral part of our well being. It is a tool to transform lifestyle. Data is the raw material of the information age,” said Gurdeep Singh, chief executive officer, consumer business, Reliance Communications. To start with, these services will be available to Reliance customers in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“We are committed to go online pan-India within 90 days with more services and web sites,” Singh said. “Reliance Communications has 110 million subscribers now. Out of that 35 million do not have internet phone. From the balance, only 35 million use the internet,” Singh told, speaking about the potential. He said speed and bandwidth were also not issues as Internet.org and the collage of 33 websites were designed and housed to be less bandwidth hungry.
The companies declined to share who will bear the cost of such data. “If we do good to people they will come back to us,” Singh said. Facebook chief executive officer and founder Mark Zuckerberg addressed the launch through a pre-recorded audio-visual. “Internet service should be available for all. It will add value to lives and solve fundamental problems,” he said. He mentioned that the idea of the project was hatched during his India visit last October.
“This is a big step forward in our efforts to connect everyone in India to the internet, and to help people discover new tools and information that can create more jobs and opportunities,” said Chris Daniels, the vice-president of Internet.org at Facebook.
“Through this partnership, we aim to increase internet inclusion and encourage more Indians to go online. This will not only accelerate net penetration in India, but also open new socio-economic opportunities to users in areas like education, information and commerce,” said Singh.
Reliance customers can access these websites with zero data charges at www.internet.org or its Android app. Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi, to begin with.
Some of the free services on offer with Facebook:
-Careers and Jobs: TimesJobs, Babajob
– Education and Knowledge: Wikipedia, wikiHow, Dictionary.com, Translator, Reuters Market Lite, Jagran Josh
– Health and Social Welfare: Facts for Life (UNICEF), BabyCenter & MAMA, Girl Effect (Nike Foundation), iLearn (UN Women), Malaria No More, Socialblood, AP Speaks
– News: BBC News, Times of India, India Today, NDTV, BBC News, IBNLive, Aaj Tak, Amarujala.com, Daily Bhaskar, Maalai Malar, Maharashtra Times, Jagran, Newshunt, Manoramanews.com
-Search: Bing (from Microsoft)
-Social: Facebook, Facebook Messenger
– Sports: ESPN Cricinfo
– Utility: OLX, Astro, Cleartrip, AccuWeather