Zuckerberg steps up drive to get customers online for free


Facebook founder believes once used to basic offerings, they will be more inclined to pay for a wider service

Mark Zuckerberg has again called on global operators to allow “basic internet” services to be accessed for free.

His comments, made during a keynote discussion at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, echo those made a year ago.

Zuckerberg (pictured) believes customers, once having got used to the basic offerings, will then be more inclined to pay for a wider service, benefiting both the operator and the customer.

“We want to help people connect with other people and share moments of their lives,” said Zuckerberg. “When people have access to that, you can stay closer to the people, have better access to information such as health, the business tools, communicate with new and existing customers.

Growing internet costly
“In order to grow the internet, it is expensive work. The only way we can accelerate is to grow the operators business faster.

“Last year when I spoke about it, I was saying I wanted to go in this direction. That was my request to the industry and to find people to work with us.”

Free online services
Zuckerberg set up the Facebook campaign ‘internet.org’ last year  to offer a number of free online services, including access to Facebook, initially targeted at emerging markets.  So far it has been introduced to six countries including Paraguay  (Millicom) which has seen a 30 per cent rise in data users and in Tanzania where it has prompted a 10 per cent rise in smartphone sales.

Zuckerberg said results so far there,  show no “cannibalisation” of revenues in those countries as a result of the free offerings.

“We have launched four in Africa,  Colombia and a couple of weeks ago in India.

“The programme gives the basic services, even if they’ve never used the internet in their life.

“They have basic services and and an unwrap reason as to why they would want to pay for data.  We have those partnerships, and proud of what we have achieved so far and ready to do more.”