Emma Okonji, Raheem Akingbolu and Sunday Okobi
Bharti Airtel Africa, the parent company of Airtel Nigeria, on Tuesday in Lagos, announced a business collaboration deal with Facebook, that will enable Airtel Nigeria subscribers have access to basic and free internet services on their mobile devices, while using a connected Airtel SIM card.
The deal entails that Nigerian subscribers connected to the Airtel mobile work will be able to access all the services that are available on the combined platform, through ‘Free Basics’ without paying extra for data charges or rental.
The Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr. SegunOgunsanya, said thatwith the free internet access, Airtel subscribers could dial *141# to start using the free and basic services.
According to him, “The collaboration marks a significant milestone in our nation’s drive towards deepening digital connectivity and enhancing mobile broadband access for millions of Nigerians in line with the key objective of Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan. It is our belief that this partnership, the first of its kind in Nigeria, will create a plethora of opportunities for millions of Nigerians, empowering them to connect to their dreams, realise their full potentials, and succeed in their professional and personal endeavours.”
Free Basics platform provides basic mobile websites and services for free to people around the world and demonstrating the value the internet can provide.
The Free Basics will launch in Nigeria with more than 85 free services dedicated to health, education, jobs, and finance. To date, Facebook estimates that its connectivity efforts, which include Free Basics, have brought more than 25 million people online who would not be otherwise.
Airtel Africa will also be offering Facebook Flex in Nigeria, which allows people to access a version of Facebook without data charges. This initiative is part of Facebook’s commitment to bringing people online and reducing affordability barriers.
The Chief Executive of Airtel Africa, Christian de Faria, said: “We are pleased to take this big step forward in our partnership with Facebook, bringing more people online in Africa’s most populous country and helping to further narrow the digital divide. This builds on our vision of using our widespread 3G network to help improve lives and communities by empowering them with access to digital content and services that are tailored to their needs.”
Airtel Africa has worked with Facebook since 2014 in enhancing accessibility to the internet in an affordable manner through the launch of Free Basics in Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Seychelles and Rwanda. With the launch of Free Basics in Nigeria, millions more people will have the ability to access basic services, Airtel and Facebook said in a joint statement.
The Vice President of Internet.org at Facebook, Chris Daniels, said: “Bharti Airtel Africa has been an important partner in bringing connectivity and access to people across Africa. Our partnership has played a key role in helping bring digital content and services to people and communities in growing countries.”
The Director of Global Product Partnerships at Facebook, ImeArchibong, added: “We have spent time with the developer community in Nigeria to understand how we can help people in the country build and create for their communities, and by bringing Free Basics to Nigeria we hope to provide another platform for developers to bring relevant services to people free of charge. At launch, we have more than 85 services included in Free Basics and hope to spur more development to bring relevant, basic services to Nigerians.”