Free Basics Research Paper: Zero Rating, Free Data, and Use Cases in mhealth, Local Content and Service Development, and ICT4D Policymaking
39 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2016 Last revised: 28 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 27, 2016
Facebook's Free Basics is an open platform which offers free access to basic services such as communications tools (including Facebook), educational tools, health services, and job sites, and which is optimized for feature phones on 2G networks in 45 countries and growing. This paper focus on the third party services inside Free Basics and describes the role of zero rating and free data the facilitate the realize of the key use cases. One use case is the provision of mobile health (mhealth) services for people suffering with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Another use case is for prenatal care for women in rural and remote areas, helping to reduce the pregnancy-related complications that claim almost 1000 lives of women per day. The paper also describes the role of Free Basics in local content and service development and how entrepreneurs and developers in emerging countries use the platform to adapt their services for first time Internet users and how they onboard those new users to their flagship websites. It also describes how policymakers in three countries (Ghana, Thailand, and Colombia) have leveraged Free Basics to strengthen ICT4D (information communication technologies for development).
While Free Basics has an impressive track record to support Internet adoption with 25 million new Internet users, it delivers less than 10 percent of the needed new Internet users globally. World population is growing faster than than Internet adoption, and adoption is not on track to meet the ITU's 2020 connectivity goals. In fact adoption probably needs to double to some 400 million-500 million new users to keep up with population growth and close the connectivity gap. This suggests that the policy problem is not too much zero rating or free data, but too little. The paper offers information for public and private actors to launch additional adoption programs.
Keywords: Facebook, Free Basics, zero rating, free data, mhealth, ICT4D, AIDS, women and girls health
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