IDEAS Insights Net Neutrality & Development - lessons from Zambia - Page 6

Nevertheless, the platform has also been criticized for inhibiting users’ access to the ‘real’ internet consumed by the bulk of the connected world, because it only offers free access to a handful of websites. It can be seen as discriminating against companies not in its selection, an action which has the added effect of narrowing users’ spectrum of available information: a meagre total of 24 websites are accessible, while there are more than 1.8 billion pages on the World Wide Web. [6] Free Basics is also restricted linguistically through the majority of services being only available in English. Although this serves as the national language and is the common communication method among educated Zambians, only 2% of the population speak it as their first language. [7] A further relative disadvantage of internet.org is its reliance on a data-light network, resulting in web pages stripped of photos and videos. To cite a simple example, if a user searches “Ghana” with the supported Bing search engine, visiting a search result that exceeds the standard data-load will immediately generate a requirement for payment, thus effectively pay-walling content. Users are therefore susceptible to be driven towards search-engine-optimized headlines and clickbait-orientated content, without reading any other parts of articles, thus making it difficult to identify and filter fake news or counter against misinformation. Fig. 3: Zambian kids learning how to use computers 4