In South Africa, we can often complain about our expensive data and poor bandwidth, but as poor as we think we are, we actually have it good compared to many parts of the world. Yes, our services are more expensive but that is all starting to change, and our current internet speeds are also on the rise.
With many countries and millions of people still desperate for access to cheap and affordable data, there is a need for apps that can help to not just utilise less bits and bytes but also access to this cheaper or possibly free data. Enter Facebook who is currently testing out a new app, called Discover, which does just that.
The app provides users with a balance of free browsing data provided by several mobile partners. Users will receive free data from their provider each day and will get a notification when it’s available. Discover only provides low-bandwidth browsing — so you can load text on a website but not video, audio, or other data-intensive elements. Data can be purchased separately to enable these.
According to the company, you do not need a Facebook account to use the app with the company also claiming that it doesn’t collect users’ browsing histories “in connection with them” and does not store any data either.
This app forms part of Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which aims to provide internet access (and, perhaps, Facebook access) to regions with low connectivity. Their first attempt which allowed subscribers on supported phones to visit select websites (including BBC News, Wikipedia, Bing — and, of course, Facebook and Messenger) without paying for the data usage, was eventually banned in India where it was launched, over privacy and net neutrality concerns. Hopefully this approach is a much better one, though you have to wonder exactly how Facebook intends to possibly monetise this in the future because it’s not sustainable to just give away data without some form of kickback.
Facebook is running the first trial in Peru, but it plans to launch in a number of other countries in the future, including Thailand, the Philippines and Iraq.
Last Updated: May 8, 2020