Facebook Inc has tied up with India's Reliance Communications
Ltd to offer free access to a handful of online services in India, broadening its campaign to boost Internet use in the developing world.
India, the world's second-biggest mobile market, will become the first country in Asia to get the new Internet.org app, which targets mobile phone users.
The app, aimed at low income and rural users, will offer access to more than 30 Web services, including job listings, healthcare and education sites, as well as Facebook's own social network and messaging services. It will be provided via the Android operating system.
Specifically, Reliance customers in six states (Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana) will get access to the more than 30 Web services. Reliance subscribers can access these services in the Internet.org Android app, at www.internet.org, from the start screen of the Opera Mini mobile web browser, and using the Android app UC Browser for Internet.org. Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi.
In its blog post announcing the rollout, Facebook said, "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. We'll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world."
In a statement, Gurdeep Singh, CEO, Consumer Business, Reliance Communications, said, "We are delighted to announce the launch of Internet.org services in India. Through this partnership with Facebook, we aim to increase Internet inclusion and encourage more Indians to go online. This partnership will not only accelerate Internet penetration in India, it will also open new socio-economic opportunities to users in fields like education, information, and commerce."
Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new app is the first time the company has added services beyond its own website.
The service comes to India after having launched in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana and Colombia.
Written with inputs from Reuters