16 November 2015:

Praekelt Foundation and Facebook partnership set to support Free Basics by Facebook impact

Praekelt Foundation and Facebook today announced an exciting new partnership that aims to significantly support the impact of Internet.org and the Free Basics by Facebook platform.

The partnership is centred around a unique programme, the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics, that will provide 100 independently-selected social change organisations with open source tools and strategies to create life-enhancing online services for the developing world. This is simply the first step: Praekelt Foundation will use the incubator programme as a springboard to empower hundreds of other organisations to create sites and services, for the Free Basics by Facebook platform and the web, by opening up the technologies and strategies for public access.

The documentation produced by Praekelt Foundation, with contributions from Torchbox, will also allow other developers to add to and augment the open source technologies we create. To inspire organisations outside of the incubator, the journeys of each of our partner organisations will be recorded and published as instructive case studies, through a community-driven blog.

Launched in 2014, Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative bringing together technology leaders, non-profits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that don’t have internet access.

Already South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya are among the twenty nine countries across the globe now connected through Internet.org. Mobile phone users in these countries now access to a set of websites and services with no data charges, in categories including maternal health, education, news updates, as well as local information.

In September, Facebook announced a new name for the app and mobile website — Free Basics by Facebook. The aim of the Praekelt Foundation and Facebook incubator partnership is to increase and add to the mix of free websites and services available to users on this platform. The partnership, which includes UK-based media agency, Torchbox, will focus on providing the right tools – as well as content, capacity building and leadership support – to organisations working in the social change sector.

"We’re excited to partner with the Praekelt Foundation to provide more organisations and content creators with the tools and support they need to bring their services to Free Basics. The incubator programme will help developers bring important health, education and jobs information to the more than 1 billion people with access to the internet through Free Basics," commented Ime Archibong, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Facebook.

Praekelt Group Founder and CEO Gustav Praekelt added, “Praekelt Foundation believes that access to essential information and basic services is a human right. When people have access to the tools and knowledge that the internet and other digital communication technologies provide, they have access to opportunities that will make their lives better.”

“We’re proud to say that since the launch of Internet.org just under a year ago, the sites and services we've created with our partners have been accessed by more than 10 million people in over 29 countries. Among the partners we have worked with are UNICEF, Girl Effect, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), Baby Center and many other NGOs. More than one billion people, many of them first-time internet users, now have free access to potentially life-saving information via Internet.org and its Free Basics platform.

“We’ve never seen our work reach so many people so quickly, but there is so much more that can still be done – and that is where the Free Basics incubator partnership with Facebook comes in.”

Jonathan McKay, Praekelt Foundation’s Head of Youth and Communications commented, “Over the course of the last two years I’ve met scores of organisations who have both the potential and the ambition to create life-enhancing content and services for the developing world. What they lack is the opportunity and the means. With this incubator, we have a chance to create the tools that will change that. Supporting the development of these tools with the publication of tangible lessons and examples that will inspire hundreds more organisations to amplify and extend the impact of their work through the Free Basics platform.”

The Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics will provide 100 independently-selected social change organisations with tools, service and support to the value of $200,000, co-funded by Praekelt Foundation and Facebook. The organisations will be selected by an independent panel of advisors.

Among the elements that will be provided to the organisations will be:

Tools and Technical Support:

Partner organisations will be given access to a new content management system, designed to make content accessible for first-time internet users, particularly those using low-end feature phones in resource-constrained environments. This system, Universal Core, will allow organisations to manage and publish feature-rich content and services in multiple languages on the Free Basics platform. For a 12-month period, beneficiaries will also enjoy free hosting and technical support.

Content Development:

Praekelt Foundation will work with Free Basics incubator partners to analyse and adapt their existing content in order to ensure it is: suitable for delivery via Free Basics; engaging to end users; and geared to deliver impact. Where necessary, Praekelt will guide partners in the creation of new content and services which take advantage of some of the unique features of the Free Basics platform.

Capacity Building & Leadership:

The team at Praekelt Foundation will work closely with the selected partner organisations to train them on the use of the publishing platform and a host of other tools they’ll need to shift or scale up their work from offline to online, digital to mobile. In addition, Praekelt Foundation will design and facilitate two workshops - one in India and one in South Africa - to empower the leaders of the 20 the most promising incubator partners. These workshops will connect them to industry leaders (CEOs, thought leaders, ecosystem evangelists, social change leaders and others) and accelerate the development of their Free Basics offering, with a focus on designing impact measurement strategies.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was recently launched by the United Nations and it very clearly commits its members to provide Internet connectivity for all by 2020,” concludes Praekelt.

“But connectivity isn't an end in itself. It’s what people do with it that matters. By working with social change organisations and empowering them to leverage the Free Basics platform and the internet, our incubator programme will help accelerate the rate at which connectivity is translated into real impact for people and their families.”

To register your interest to join the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics click here.

For more information contact:
Praekelt Foundation
Samantha Manclark
sam@abetterworld.co.za +27 82 556 5188 (tel:+27825565188)