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Rappler reaches more Filipinos using Facebook's Free Basics

MANILA, Philippines – With slow Internet speed in the Philippines, how does an online news organization like Rappler reach more Filipinos? 

When it comes to internet speed, the Philippines is way behind its neighbors in Asia. Singapore enjoys an average Internet download speed of 133.1 megabits per second (mbps), while the Philippines suffers with a miserable 3.7 mbps, according to www.netindex.com.

In 2015, Rappler partnered with Facebook's Internet.org. Internet.org, which includes Free Basics, is an initiative that aims to bring internet access to all areas of the globe. It is a Facebook-led initiative that brings together technology leaders, nonprofit organizations, and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that doesn’t have internet access.

A year after the partnership, Facebook features Rappler on its Facebook for Developers page.

In the video, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa talks about why Rappler was launched. She said she saw "tremendous potential in technology" and, with journalism at its core, Rappler used social media to change the game.

Also featured in the video is Rappler's civic engagement arm, MovePH, bringing digital initiatives into the real world, and the Agos map – created in the wake of Tropical Storm Sendong – which uses online data to help people during disasters.

Rappler's chief technology officer, Russell Shepherd, discusses how with Free Basics, the company is able to target 77 million people across the Philippines. A new version of the site has been created so that it can be easily transmitted even under low bandwidth.

"Even if the government hasn't done it, we can act to help ourselves," says Ressa. "We can actually harness civic engagement bottom up and try to help build institutions that way. That's powerful."

Free Basics makes the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.

To date, Facebook has been able to offer these services to a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these services, it is their hope to bring more people online and help improve more lives.

In a country with only 40% online penetration but over 100% mobile phone penetration, Free Basics will be able to reach even those in far flung areas. The internet is now not only exclusive to areas with hotspots but even farmers and fishermen can access the internet and its wealth of information on their phones.

Free Basics unlocks countless opportunities that could lead to improved ways of living and doing business, espcially for those who need it most. – Rappler.com