Facebook brings free internet access to India

The internet.org app launches in India

The internet.org initiative is officially live in one of the world's most populous countries giving users access to a host of mobile internet services via a smartphone app.

Facebook first announced its hugely ambitious internet.org initiative in August 2013, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing the barriers that much of the world's population currently face when attempting to access the internet.

Internet.org isn't about building cell towers or installing fiber networks but about making existing internet connections accessible to more people, either by making mobile data cheaper or by making mobile devices more affordable to more people. According to Facebook's own data, 85% of the world's population lives in areas with cellular internet coverage yet only 30% of the global population currently access the internet.

In order to overcome these barriers, Facebook needs to partner with tech companies, device makers and network operators. And in India it is with network operator Reliance Communications that the social network is working in order to bring the interent.org app to the people.

From Tuesday, Reliance Communications customers in six Indian states -- Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana -- will be able to access the internet.org app and with it, access to 38 online sites and services free of charge, covering everything from health advice and current affairs to job listings, travel, local government and the cricket scores.

The sites that can be accessed via the app include BBC News, Bing search, Wikipedia and, of course, Facebook, and most of the service will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi.

The internet.org app has already been rolled out in Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana and in Colombia, but coming to India is the most ambitious step yet for the organization.

In a statement announcing the launch, Facebook said: "This is a big step forward in our efforts to connect everyone to the internet, and to help people share their ideas and creativity with the entire world. We'll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world."