Facebook to Offer South African Cell C Users Free Web Access

Facebook Inc. will offer customers of Cell C Pty Ltd. access to its free application Internet.org in South Africa as the social-networking service seeks to add users in the continent’s most developed economy.

The service will allow Cell C users to see Facebook and about 30 websites offering information about healthcare and jobs without being charged for data, Markku Makelainen, Facebook’s director of global operator partnerships, said in an interview on Wednesday. It will be available from July.

“It’s a method for users who want to try out free basic services on the Internet, they can do it without any cost and then they can basically move up the ladder to paid services,” Makelainen said at Cell C’s Johannesburg headquarters. “We want to take away the fear of use. Less than half of the population is connected.”

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is pushing Internet.org to bring online access to people who can’t afford it around the globe. More than 1.1 billion people worldwide don’t have access to the Internet, according to estimates by McKinsey & Co.

Customers of Cell C, the third-largest South African wireless carrier, will have free data access to the full version of Facebook’s application for two months before downgrading access to a more basic version of the service.

“After the promotion basically we’ll take away the baby pictures and cat videos,” Makelainen said. “If users want to see the full experience then getting a data plan from Cell C obviously enables the full Facebook.”

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