Is Free Basics Really Bringing More Africans Online? A Case Study From Ghana

28 July 2017

Internet

Across the world, efforts to increase internet access are wide-ranging — there is everything from public-private infrastructure development, to community-built mesh networks from Oaxaca to Cape Verde, to WiFi-emitting balloons flown by Google.

Another effort is Facebook's Internet.org project, which the Silicon Valley company describes as an initiative to bring internet access and the benefits of connectivity to the portion of the world that doesn‘t have them. The flagship product of Internet.org is a mobile app called Free Basics, which gives users access to Facebook and a handful of online services, such as Accu Weather, BBC News and Wikipedia free of charge.

On the Internet.org website, Facebook explains that the app is intended to help people justify the cost of mobile data:“By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these websites, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives.”

In an effort to better understand the impact of the Free Basics app and its role within the broader spectrum of global internet access development initiatives, a group of Global Voices contributors tested the Free Basics app in six countries across the globe this spring. We conducted case studies in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines, along with a review of research, criticism and public documentation about the app's use and utility. [Learn more our research] Read the full article on Global Voices Online here.