Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming the major social media platforms in Africa so it comes as no surprise that mobile operators are taking all opportunities to improve the use of these as customers’ demand for access increases.
Internet.org, which is a Facebook project that allows basic access to popular websites, was launched in Tanzania yesterday after its first global launch in Zambia. It is working with the mobile operator Tigo, unlike in Zambia where Facebook are partnered with Airtel. The app allows subscribers basic access to sites such as AccuWeather, Mwananchi, BBC News & BBC Swahili, BrighterMonday, The Citizen, Facebook, Facts for Life (a UNICEF Product), Girl Effect, BabyCenter & MAMAMessenger, Shule Direct, Mwanaspoti, Shule Direct, SuperSport, Tanzania Today, OLX,and Wikipedia.
This has been done to increase inclusion of people onto the social media scene, to give them more access to information and to help them stay connected with each other.
They can get the Internet.org app via the Google Play Store.
However, Airtel Tanzania had rolled out free Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter access to its subscribers in April, calling it WTF, that gave them basic access to the site and charging for viewing videos and external links. A subscriber had to buy a bundle plan that gave them access to free Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. Depending on whether they chose the daily, weekly or monthly plan, they had the corresponding amount of time to access the social media apps.
Tweets from the 254 are just about to get a whole lot crazier! Airtel Kenya has announced that Twitter will be free till the 15th of August so no running away from those festive season tweets that are about to start filling up your timelines from your Kenyan friends.
However, users will only have free access to Twitter on their web browsers or if they have the app installed on their Android or Windows phone. They will have basic access but will not be able to view pictures, external links or videos as these will incur normal data charges, which you will be notified of with a pop-up message as you try to leave the basic site or view media.
The Zambian Situation
Currently we have Internet.org providing basic access on Airtel to Facebook and other sites, and even recently included 3 more sites to the list. There are no free access plans to Whatsapp or Twitter yet. Why can mobile operators not bundle them up like Airtel Tanzania did. That gives subscribers a chance to visit other sites with their data and not have to pay for their main social media which should be Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp.
The current bundle plans charge for whatever site you visit. Zambia still has some of the highest internet data bundle rates in southern Africa, and most of them don’t come with fringe benefits. Only Airtel and Facebook’s Internet.org platform has anything free to offer with regards to internet access.
Will we see a move being made anytime soon to increase access and innovate? Hopefully.
Image Credit: VPN Accounts, Android Next, Internet.org