Is There a Hidden Cost to Facebook’s Free Internet in Africa?

August 02, 2016 at 01:00 pm | Tech & Innovation

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

August 02, 2016 at 01:00 pm | Tech & Innovation

African youth enjoying the internet on their mobile phones. The Guardian

Facebook’s plan to offer free internet in Africa has been interpreted in different ways, with some digital activists arguing that the American social media giant could end up undermining efforts to get more people connected to the internet.

They also question Facebook’s intention to connect its users in Africa and other parts of the world to free internet, suspecting that it could be a costly marketing ploy, according to the Guardian.

“Even if people are hungry, we shouldn’t be giving them half a loaf,” Gbenga Sesan, the founder of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, told the Guardian.

While appreciating Facebook’s efforts to connect as many Africans as possible to the internet, Sesan questioned why the social media company is offering limited access while making people believe they have full access.

Internet from Space

In October last year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his intention to partner with other well-established technology firms to launch a satellite into orbit that will supply internet to millions of people living in remote parts of Africa.

“As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa,” Mark wrote on his Facebook page.

The American tech guru added that his company has been exploring modern ways to deliver sufficient internet to communities living in remote regions of the world where traditional connectivity infrastructure has proved ineffective.

With the new project, dubbed the AMOS-6 Satellite, Facebook hopes to cover large parts of West, East, and Southern Africa.

“We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite,” Mark added.

According to him, the project is not just for Africans, but the entire world.

“We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world – even if that means looking beyond our planet,” he wrote.

Optimistic Users

While a majority of African activists have expressed their reservations about free internet in Africa, many Facebook users across the continent are optimistic that the project will transform their connectivity for the better.

Reacting to Mark’s Facebook post from October 2015, many congratulated him saying the project will help them to connect with friends and relatives around the world.

Lwandile Mazaleni wrote:

“Now these are awesome news for us here in Africa, and we welcome the initiative to help us connect to the world, and no we don’t, stay in the jungle with lions and zebras, when it comes to internet connection, we have at least some infrastructures, just that Data is expensive, hope Amos-6 will answer this challenge, i also hope that the partners you will chose to work with won’t be controlled by politics… WELL DONE FACEBOOK, and now, we can’t wait for 2016.”

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