Facebook, an online social media and social networking service provider, says it will soon partner mobile operators in Ghana to introduce its Internet.org’s Express Wifi programme to empower them to provide quality internet access to their communities.
“In Africa, Facebook already has partners in Tanzania, Nigeria, and South Africa, with more deployments planned soon, including Ghana,” said Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org at Facebook.
Speaking at its first-ever African FbStart workshop for developers in Cape Town, South Africa, Mr. Daniels said empowering local retailers and entrepreneurs with this programme would also enhance their income status.
He said Facebook’s mission was to give people the power to share and to make the world more open and connected.
Mr. Daniels said only half of the planet was on the internet, adding that “our aim with Internet.org is to connect the other half through initiatives such as Free Basics, solar-powered airplanes, satellites, and our exciting new programme, Express Wifi.”
According to the International Telecommunications Union, internet penetration in Africa is now at 28 per cent, but the Facebook vice president said there was so much more do be done.
He said working with local internet service providers or mobile operators, they were able to use software provided by Facebook to connect their communities.
The programme is currently live at 150 locations in five countries across two continents.
“This is a sustainable approach to bringing connectivity to underserved communities in countries across Africa – it is a business model that will grow itself because it empowers entrepreneurs to serve their communities,” said Mr. Daniels.
This programme has also improved the skills of local entrepreneurs who work with Facebook and its ISP partners to build install and maintain local wifi networks.
“We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made – but also inspired by what we’ve seen in the community,” he said, adding “It’s exciting to see local economies transformed by connectivity as people use the internet to enhance existing businesses or create new ones.”
More than 150 developers and entrepreneurs gathered for the Facebook’s FbStart event, during which attendees met the Facebook team, learned about Facebook platform tools for developers, and saw how Facebook works with mobile app start-ups through the FbStart programme.
“It would not be possible for us to accomplish our mission of making the world more open and connected without the help of developers and other partners in our community,” said Emeka Afigbo, Strategic Products Partnerships Manager, Facebook.
“We were delighted by the excellent turnout for the workshop and excited by the possibilities of the great ideas we saw from the delegates at the FbStart event,” he said.
Meanwhile, Facebook has announced the release of its Population Density Map data to the public, to enable government policymakers, academics and local organisations to benefit from access to this rich dataset, with potential applications such as socio-economic research, infrastructure planning, and risk assessment for natural disasters.
To start, Facebook had shared data sets for Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Haiti, and Sri Lanka, and they can be found on the website of CIESIN at Columbia University.
“More countries will be added over the coming months,” Facebook said in a statement.