Facebook and Reliance Communcations bring Internet.org to India

Facebook 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.

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 websites 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 here.

"Internet is the integral part of our well being. It is 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 of Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The services will then be extended to the rest of the country in a phased manner with more services and websites.

The company is already live with the he services in all these circles by, said Singh: "We are committed to go online pan-India within 90 days."

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.

"Today, we're excited to make the Internet available to millions of people in India through the launch of Internet.org and free basic services with Reliance," said Chris Daniels, the vice-president of Internet.org at Facebook.

"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."

Reliance customers can now explore Internet and reap its benefit in daily life, without having to worry about data charges. These set of services also come with free Facebook access, Singh said.

"It is not restricted to any handset, irrespective of screen size or operating platform," he said.

"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."

Saying that future belongs to the people with access to internet, he said that people with no access to internet will be "less comparative and agile.

Daniels said Facebook has helped Reliance in the project with technology and users experience.

Reliance customers can access these websites with zero data charges at www.internet.org, or in the Internet.org Android app. Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi, to begin with.

Reliance Communications, an integrated telecommunications service provider with a pan-India presence, has a customer base of over 110 million, including over 2.6 million individual overseas retail customers.

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.


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