Facebook has partnered with Smart Axiata, a telecommunications service provider company, to bring Free Basics to Cambodia. This means that Cambodian users will be able to access a range of basic internet services for free via Free Basics’ mobile website or through their mobile application. The Kingdom will be the 22nd country in the world where this project will be launched, providing an opportunity for internet usage in rural areas. This service will be available in Khmer as well as in English.
Free Basics is a revamped version of what Facebook initially started out as internet.org. An initiative with the aim of providing free internet services for those who do not have the privilege of connectivity in developing countries, Free Basics has over 60 basic services offered as compared to internet.org; which was only possible after the addition of third party developers. Such examples would be a wide variety of basic tools related to news, jobs, health, education, sports, communication, travel and local government information. For instance, ‘SmartBusiness’ is a website that provides economic information and helps people learn how to launch and run a business whereas ‘BabyCenter’ provides parenting and pregnancy information.
In Cambodia, some of the websites available includes Facebook, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, Bing and many more. As these websites will be simple and data efficient, users will have full access via their mobile phones with no data or usage charge whatsoever. This enables them to connect with family, source for information and utilise online resources for free. Facebook explained that due to the fact that two-thirds of the world have no access to the internet, they hoped that this initiative would allow an opportunity to introduce the value of the internet to a wider audience and the benefits of going online.
Free Basics in Cambodia can be accessed either via downloading the Free Basics Android App on the Google Play store or visiting FreeBasics.com on a mobile website with a SMART Axiata SIM card. Both methods of which supports HTTPS for added security. Current users of the internet.org Android application will not be affected and can continue to use the app with no interruption.
Internet.org started in 2014 where Facebook wanted to bring affordable internet access to everyone on the planet via global partnerships within the technology industry. Out of the 5 billion people in the world without internet access, 85% of them are in this situation simply because they cannot afford data plans. Hence with this project, Facebook has collaborated with big brands such as Qualcomm, Samsung, Nokia and many more to make low costing internet a reality with more efficient data and accessible technology.
Internet.org first faced critism for violating net neutrality regimes with it’s intial list of website tools being only from their partners. However with Free Basics, Facebook has stated that it would open up Free Basics to any developer with an app as long as it has met with the Free Basics Platform requirements.
Edited by: Deborah Chen