Facebook had a strong presence at AfricaCom 2016 in Cape Town, in line with its commitment to fostering a strong relationship with its connectivity partners and application developers across Africa.
In addition to hosting its first-ever African FbStart workshop for developers, Facebook also shared how it is empowering local retailers and entrepreneurs with Internet.org’s Express Wifi programme.
Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org at Facebook, says: “Our mission is to give people the power to share and to make the world more open and connected. Only half of the planet is on the Internet – our aim with Internet.org is to connect the other half through initiatives such as Free Basics, solar-powered airplanes, satellites, and our exciting new programme, Express Wifi. According to the ITU, Internet penetration in Africa is now at 28%, but there is so much more do be done.”
Express Wifi by Facebook empowers local entrepreneurs to provide quality Internet access to their communities and make a steady income. Working with local Internet service providers or mobile operators, they’re able to use software provided by Facebook to connect their communities.
The programme is currently live at 150 locations in five countries across two continents.
In Africa, Facebook already has partners in Tanzania, Nigeria, and South Africa, with more deployments planned soon, including Ghana.
“This is a sustainable approach to bringing connectivity to underserved communities in countries across Africa – it is a business model that will grow itself because it empowers entrepreneurs to serve their communities,” says Daniels.
This programme has also improved the skills of local entrepreneurs who work with Facebook and its ISP partners to build, install and maintain local wifi networks.
“We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made – but also inspired by what we’ve seen in the community,” says Daniels. “It’s exciting to see local economies transformed by connectivity as people use the Internet to enhance existing businesses or create new ones.”
More than 150 developers and entrepreneurs gathered for Facebook’s first FbStart event in Africa during the week. During this half-day event, attendees met the Facebook team, learned about Facebook platform tools for developers, and saw how Facebook works with mobile app start-ups through the FbStart programme.
“It would not be possible for us to accomplish our mission of making the world more open and connected without the help of developers and other partners in our community,” says Emeka Afigbo, strategic products partnerships manager at Facebook. “We were delighted by the excellent turnout for the workshop and excited by the possibilities of the great ideas we saw from the delegates at the FbStart event.”
Also this week, Facebook announced that it is now releasing its Population Density Map data to the public.
Government policymakers, academics and local organisations will all benefit from access to this rich dataset, with potential applications such as socio-economic research, infrastructure planning, and risk assessment for natural disasters.
To start, Facebook has shared data sets for Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Haiti, and Sri Lanka, and they can be found on the website of CIESIN at Columbia University. More countries will be added over the coming months.