Free Basics, the service allowing free access to a bouquet of websites is headed to Zimbabwe. Most people will recognise the name from the noise the zero-rated platform caused in India for net neutrality violations and its recent shutdown in Egypt.
However, this has not slowed down its growth. According to Facebook, the Free Basics service has already been accessed by 1 billion worldwide. Once it becomes active in Zimbabwe it will have entered a total of 38 countries, giving citizens in these markets free access to a set of familiar internationally recognised websites, and to the local websites that sign up to be part of it.
The Internet.org team has been conducting workshops in Harare with local content developers and proprietors of online platforms to explain how the service will work and to add a bit clarity on the benefits for everyone involved.
Any Zimbabwean website can be included on Free Basics, and Internet.org has asked for the first submissions of sites to be made within the next fortnight. However, some conditions have to be met by each site.
It has to be efficient
In the context of data usage, the site or application should not use VoIP, video or file transfer and images should not be larger than 200KB in size.
It has to meet technical specifications
Each site or app should be optimised for browsing on feature phones and for cases where there is limited bandwidth. Thi is meant to accommodate the huge percentage of mobile internet users that are on such devices and for the strains on broadband use that the service could potentially place on the participating operator’s networks.
Site should be tested
Owners are being encouraged to test their sites to ensure that they meet these requirements before submission to ensure that their content is displayed appropriately through Free Basics.
Where to submit
Anyone keen on submitting their site or app for consideration should follow this link to the Internet.org developers’ page where steps for submission will be laid out, along with additional information that they might require before signing up.