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WHO, Facebook and Praekelt.Org provide critical mobile access to COVID-19 information for vulnerable communities

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WHO is working with Facebook and Praekelt.Org to provide WHO’s COVID-19 information to the world’s most vulnerable people through Discover and Free Basics in a mobile-friendly format.

Though over 85% of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, many people can’t afford to purchase mobile data consistently and others have not yet adopted the internet. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, it is important now more than ever to help people stay connected and to increase access to health information and other resources on the internet.

This initiative enables underserved communities to access life-saving COVID-19 health information through participating operators in more than 55 countries. The WHO COVID-19 information has reached more than two million people so far in nine languages, with other languages to follow in the coming weeks and months.

Discover is a mobile web and Android app that can be used to browse any website on the internet using a daily balance of free data from participating mobile operators. Facebook is piloting Discover in a handful of countries. Free Basics enables people with participating operators to access basic services such as health information, job sites, communication tools, education resources, and local government information without data charges. Both Discover and Free Basics are part of Facebook Connectivity's efforts to support more consistent connectivity.

“We’re very excited to build on our successful partnership with WHO, Facebook and WhatsApp to ensure that anyone with a mobile phone has access to quality COVID-19 information from a trusted source like the WHO,” said Gustav Praekelt, founder of praekelt.org. “Free Basics and Discover from Facebook allows us to deliver life-saving information completely free of charge to any user on participating operators.”

“WHO is committed to keeping all populations safe and informed during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond,” said Andrew Pattison, Manager of Digital Solutions at WHO. “This exciting partnership not only helps us ensure the world’s most vulnerable have access to life-saving public health information, but further fosters the democratization of knowledge around the world.”

This collaboration is part of WHO’s broader initiative to work with technology companies to fight misinformation and ensure people everywhere have access to accurate health information and resources on COVID-19.

In countries where Discover or Free Basics are available, people may access WHO’s COVID-19 information without incurring data charges with participating operators on the web or via Android app.