The Internet.org Innovation Challenge in India supports our vision of a connected world by recognizing people who are working to make the internet more relevant to women, students, farmers and migrant workers in India. Our goal is to encourage the development of apps, websites and online services that provide real value for the members of these important communities.
In India, only 18 percent of the population has access to the internet. To bring one billion people in India online, the internet needs to be accessible, affordable and, most importantly, we need to help people understand the possibilities available to them online. Each of the submissions we received has a part in creating a connected India and we are excited to announce the 12 winners across four categories: Farmers, Migrants, Students and Women.
We are presenting four $250,000 USD Innovation Challenge Award prizes: one to the leading app, website, service or idea that best meets the needs of each of the designated population categories, and two $25,000 USD Impact Award prizes have been granted in each category. The winners are:
Innovation Challenge Award Winner: eKutir, provides farmers with tools and resources to support them throughout the entire farming lifecycle, from crop selection to the nurture and sales process. The service empowers farmers and communities by converting a fragmented system into a collaborated and connected distributed model.
Impact Award Winner: Farmily, enables farmers to reach new buyers and negotiate better prices for agricultural produce. Disintermediation of the middle-man in the farmer and buyer interface.
Impact Award Winner: Farmalytics, aims to make Precision Farming easy and affordable by providing state of the art sensor technology with robust Analytics to help farmers make data driven decisions like every other business of the 21st century.
Innovation Challenge Award Winner: mySangham, provides vocational training and skill building geared for women empowerment in 100 initial identified villages and communities. The service aims to strengthen the economic and social stability of the nation by empowering India’s masses with vocational skills in a fast paced, cost-effective, scalable way through an online platform.
Impact Award Winner: Embrace Angel, harnesses the power of mobile, internet, sensor, and big-data technologies to cater to the need for neo-natal care in non-urban (tier 2/3 markets), where an app allows healthcare and medical professionals to extend their support from a central set of pooled resources to distant locations.
Impact Award Winner: Rang de Habba, an eStorefront for ethnic products, with a focus on supporting local women artisans. The goal is to also increase the value retention to the artisans who are otherwise exploited by more commercial brands and platforms, popular in the market.
Innovation Challenge Award Winner: BodhaGuru, creates self-learning products, immersive mobile based learning apps, videos and a book publishing platform to make learning for children from KG to 8th grade interesting, relevant and affordable. Focuses on developing creative thinking in children through storytelling.
Impact Award Winner: Fundamentor, uses gamification to build and instill life skills for young children in third through ninth grade. The service focuses on analytical, verbal, reasoning and critical thinking skills.
Impact Award Winner: LetsIntern, provides students from tier 2-3 cities with internship opportunities by connecting them with small to media sized businesses via an online portal.
Innovation Challenge Award Winner: Helper4U, an online database of jobs that matches semi-skilled migrants in specific categories with potential employers. Focused on tackling a large need to create transparency, and help migrants workers find jobs by cutting out the middleman who take a large portion of their salary as commission.
Impact Award Winner: Mygram, empowers migrants by helping them secure a digital identity. The SMS-based email service is targeted for users who are new to the internet. Whenever somebody sends you an email, you will receive an SMS with a link to that mail. Their email address is @mygram.in
Impact Award Winner: mHS City Labs, provides a online repository of resources and technical tools for migrants who are involved in low-cost construction and may lack guidance on basic engineering workmanship. Goal is to improve their skill set through how-to tutorials.
The challenge was judged by:
- Arun Bansal, SVP & Head of Radio, Ericsson
- Chris Daniels, VP, Internet.org/Facebook
- Ameet Suri, Partnerships Manager, Internet.org/Facebook
- Raj Talluri, SVP of Product Management, Qualcomm
Starting today, more than one billion people who have access to Internet.org’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America will now be able to access more free services through the Free Basics Platform. In May we introduced the Platform as a way for developers to easily create services that integrate with Internet.org, and a way to give people more choice and control over the services they access. Starting today, the Platform is now live.
Over the past few months, developers have adapted their services specifically for the Free Basics Platform requirements, and today, more than 60 new services are available across the 19 countries where free basic services are available. Not only does this expand the range of resources available to people, it gives them more choice and control over the services they can use in the app and website.
The program is making an impact on people’s lives by providing free health, education, and economic information. For instance, SmartBusiness, a website that helps people learn to launch and run a business, now sees 5x more daily searches within their service since launching in South Africa in July, meaning more people are getting access to important economic information. BabyCenter and MAMA both reach millions of people around the globe with vital health information for pregnancy and parenting, including 3.4 million people through Free Basics alone.
Starting today, people using the app or mobile web version can navigate to a menu where they can select which services to add to their list of free services. They can also search for a service by name or description.
Commitment to security and privacy
With Free Basics With Free Basics, Internet.org is making it safer for people to connect to the websites and services they care about by encrypting information wherever possible. Several months ago we announced support for services using HTTPS in the Free Basics Android app, and today, we’re adding support for HTTPS services on the web version as well. And even if the service you access only runs over HTTP, we encrypt that information between our servers and any device that supports HTTPS. Read more about our commitment to security and privacy for Free Basics here.
Free Basics by Facebook
Today we’re also announcing a new name for the app and mobile website — Free Basics by Facebook. We’re making this change to better distinguish the Internet.org initiative from the programs and services we’re providing, including Free Basics. Anyone currently using the app will be able to continue using the Android app, though it will now be called Free Basics by Facebook in Google Play. And the mobile web version, which will redirect from the previous URL, can be accessed at FreeBasics.com.
Developers building for the Platform
If you’re a developer interested in submitting your service to be part of the Internet.org Platform, you can learn more on our developer page here. We’re also clarifying the guidelines for developers building for the Platform to make them simpler after listening to feedback — you can see the updated guidelines here.
Internet infrastructure in many parts of the world is not set up for security. Networks are more constrained, devices are generally older, and modern security protocols sometimes aren’t supported at all. While we’re coming up with solutions to bring more people online, we also need to think about how to connect them securely.
With Free Basics, Internet.org is making it safer for people to connect to the websites and services they care about by encrypting information wherever possible. For example, when you use the Free Basics Android app, the traffic is encrypted end-to-end to protect your privacy unless a developer chooses to only support HTTP for their service.
Similarly, when you access the Free Basics website in a mobile browser, we use a “dual certificate” security model. The first certificate is used for traffic encrypted between your device and our servers in both directions. For services offered through Free Basics that support HTTPS, a second certificate will be used for traffic encrypted between our servers and the developer’s. We care about the security of your information, so even if the service you’re accessing only runs over HTTP, where possible we are going to encrypt that information between our servers and any device that supports HTTPS. This change provides meaningfully more security than is available today, particularly for people who may not fully trust their internet connection.
When you use the Free Basics mobile website, information is temporarily decrypted on our secure servers to ensure proper functionality of the services you use and to help you avoid any unexpected charges. We preserve the privacy of that information while it’s decrypted by only storing the domain name of the service you visit and the amount of data being used—the same information that would be visible using end-to-end encryption—as well as cookies that are stored in an encrypted and unreadable format.
We believe these upgrades to our security and privacy practices for Free Basics make Internet.org safer and a better choice for people coming online. You can read our Privacy on Free Basics page for more.
MYTH: Internet.org doesn’t help people connect to the internet.
FACT: Internet.org brings new people onto mobile networks on average over 50% faster after launching free basic services. This means that if 1,000 people who were brand new to the internet were signing up per month for mobile data services before launching Internet.org, 1,500 people sign up per month after launching Internet.org. Through our connectivity efforts we’ve brought more than 9 million people online that otherwise would not be and introduced them to the incredible value of the internet. People now have access to basic internet services including tools and resources for communication, health, education and local news.
MYTH: Internet.org creates a two-tiered Internet.
FACT: Internet.org doesn’t create a two-tiered internet. It gives people an onramp to the internet, and after using free basic services, they understand the value of the internet and then access the internet outside of Internet.org. 50% of people who join Internet.org are paying for data – and therefore have decided to access the internet outside of free basic services – within 30 days of coming online for the first time. Not having programs like Internet.org leaves more people offline and unable to realize the benefits of the internet.
MYTH: Internet.org is an exclusive program available to only one operator per country.
FACT: Internet.org is non-exclusive and is open to any operator who wants to participate. In Malawi and the Philippines, Internet.org launched with multiple operators.
MYTH: Facebook pays operators to zero rate the services within Internet.org.
FACT: Facebook does not pay operators for the data that people consume. It partners with operators on the technical side and provides marketing support to help make people aware of the program. If successful, people using the internet for the first time will begin to experience its benefits and over time will start exploring and paying to use the broader internet.
MYTH: Facebook wants to keep people within a “walled garden” of free content.
FACT: Internet.org is successful only if the newly connected reach the broader internet. Operators can’t afford to invest in improving their infrastructure if new users never pay for data. Facebook launched the Internet.org Platform, which helps more developers to include their services in Internet.org and gives people greater choice over the services that they want to use. We also emphasize the importance of exploring the entire internet in our developer terms for the Internet.org Platform.
MYTH: Internet.org is a threat to local innovation.
FACT: There is no greater threat to local innovation than leaving people offline. Internet.org increases the potential audience for websites and services and helps bring more people online faster, using the entire internet. Facebook offers a broad package of tools for companies to help launch their service – both in and out of Internet.org, and holds developer events globally to connect with and help developers launch their online services.
MYTH: Many people think that Facebook is the entire internet, and Facebook is trying to use Internet.org to reinforce that impression.
FACT: Internet.org introduces people to the value of the internet through more than 100 free basic services globally. Giving people a list that features a broader set of services is important for helping people experience the value of other online services, like women’s health information and education services. Also a key guideline for developer participation in Internet.org is to encourage the exploration of the entire internet.
MYTH: Facebook has launched Internet.org to help drive its own growth and revenue opportunities within developing countries.
FACT: There are no ads within the Facebook experience on Internet.org. If revenue were the goal, Facebook would have focused resources on markets where online advertising is already thriving.
MYTH: Facebook is picking winners by independently selecting the services included in Internet.org.
FACT: Today, Internet.org offers more than 100 free basic services globally. Facebook recently announced the Internet.org Platform, which gives more developers an opportunity to include their services in Internet.org and gives people choice over the services that they want to use. A key guideline for developer participation is to encourage the exploration of the entire internet.
MYTH: Internet.org violates the principles of net neutrality.
FACT: Facebook supports net neutrality and has worked throughout the world to ensure that services can’t be blocked or throttled and to ensure that fast lanes are prohibited. Net Neutrality seeks to ensure that network operators don’t limit access to services people want to use, and Internet.org’s goal is to provide more people with access. It is good for consumer choice and consumer value. Net neutrality and Internet.org can and must co-exist.
MYTH: Internet.org does not provide adequate protections for new internet users, some of whom may not understand how their data will be used, or may not be able to properly give consent for certain practices.
FACT: Internet.org’s practices are clear, and Facebook and Internet.org take user privacy and security extremely seriously. Internet.org doesn’t share user-level navigation information with any of its partners, and there is no requirement for developers participating in the Internet.org Platform to send Internet.org any information that personally identifies people. Internet.org does receive some data on navigation information because it needs to determine what traffic can be delivered free of data charges. This information is used, for example, to understand what services are popular, which helps it determine what types of services to launch in other countries. Internet.orgdoes not store this information with information that personally identifies you beyond 90 days.
MYTH: Isn’t Facebook in this just to make money?
FACT: No company pays Facebook to be included in Internet.org. Facebook does not even show ads in Internet.org. If our partners run ads within their services, then people may see those ads just like the rest of the internet.
MYTH: Internet.org undermines user security and fails to implement HTTPS encryption. Internet.org will reject any site that uses SSL/TLS encryption, which makes user traffic vulnerable to malicious attacks and government eavesdropping.
FACT: Our goal is to provide a secure service on every supported platform and for everyone using Internet.org. To that end, we have rolled out HTTPS support for the Internet.org app and we are also investigating how we could provide similar security for web-based access to Internet.org.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Internet.org app in its first country, Zambia.
Over the past 12 months we’ve worked closely with more than a dozen mobile operators across 17 countries to give people access to relevant basic internet services without data charges, and today Internet.org is available to more than a billion people.
By providing people with access to free basic services through Internet.org, our goal was to bring more people online and help them discover the value of the internet — and it’s working.
Internet.org brings new users onto mobile networks on average over 50% faster after launching free basic services, and more than half of the people who come online through Internet.org are paying for data and accessing the internet within the first 30 days. These points show that Internet.org is not only a successful tool in helping bring people online, but it is successful in showing people the value of the internet and helping to accelerate its adoption.
As we approach year two, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned from working closely with our partners and are now ready to scale Internet.org free basic services. We’ve made it easier for any mobile operator to turn on Internet.org in new countries through a partner portal that includes technical tools and best practices, improving the process to offer free basic services to the unconnected. New operator partners can get started at internet.org/operators.
With our recently announced Internet.org Platform, we’ve also made it easy for any developer to create services that integrate with Internet.org. Our goal is to work with as many mobile operators and developers as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities around the world.
In the past month people using Internet.org accessed health services more than a million times, which speaks to the ultimate goal of Internet.org — helping to make an impact in people’s lives.
We look forward to working in partnership with more mobile operators and developers to bring internet access and relevant basic internet services to the unconnected.
Today, we’re introducing the Internet.org Platform, an open program for developers to easily create services that integrate with Internet.org. We’re also giving people more choice over the free basic services they can use.
Our goal with Internet.org is to work with as many developers and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities. To do this, we’re going to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive.
At the core of our efforts with Internet.org are non-exclusive partnerships with mobile operators to offer free basic internet services to people through Internet.org. This is a set of basic websites and services to introduce people to the value of the internet, and that we hope add value to their lives.
These websites are very simple and data efficient, so operators can offer these for free in an economically sustainable way. Websites do not pay to be included, and operators don’t charge developers for the data people use for their services.
Because these services have to be specially built to these specifications, we started by offering just a few. But giving people more choice over the services they use is incredibly important and going forward, people using Internet.org will be able to search for and use services that meet these guidelines.
We’re building an open platform and anyone who meets these guidelines will be able to participate.
Developers that join will need to follow three principles that we’ve followed in building versions of Facebook and Messenger for Internet.org. These are designed to align all participants’ incentives and bring more people online. Participation will remain free for any developer or user.
We think these criteria will help us to connect more people faster, and add even greater value to people’s lives.
Guidelines for participation
1. Explore the entire internet
The goal of Internet.org is to allow more people to experience the benefits of being online.
For most people who aren’t online, the biggest barrier to connecting isn’t lack of infrastructure – more than 80% of the world’s population already lives within range of a mobile signal. Instead, the biggest challenges are affordability of the internet, and awareness of how internet services are valuable to them.
The Internet.org Platform aims to give people valuable free services that they can use to discover the entire wealth of online services and, ultimately become paying users of the internet.
Services should encourage the exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.
To sustainably deliver free basic internet services to people, we need to build apps that use data very efficiently.
Operators have made significant economic investments to bring the internet to people globally, and Internet.org needs to be sustainable for operators so that they can continue to invest in the infrastructure to maintain, improve and expand their networks.
Websites that require high-bandwidth will not be included. Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.
3. Technical specifications
For more information on how to work with Internet.org, visit internet.org/platform.
Update as of 5/12/15 to Technical Specifications: Content and services relying on SSL/TLS will only appear within the Internet.org Android App and not on mobile web until we have a solution there as well.