Incubator for Free Basics- FAQs

What is Free Basics? was launched in July 2014 as a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofit organisations, local communities and experts, working together to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world's population that doesn'€™t have access to it.

The initiative includes a variety of projects, some of which are partnerships with mobile network operators across the globe to provide mobile subscribers with free access to a set of basic websites on their phones with no data charges. Users access these sites through their browsers, Facebook or an android app.

To date, this part of the initiative has launched in 35 countries across the globe with well over 100 partners, giving users access to basic information in sectors such as Health, Education, Agriculture, Economic Empowerment, Gender Equality and more.

16 Novemeber 2015 Facebook announced a new name for the app and mobile website — Free Basics by Facebook.

What is the Incubator for Free Basics?

The Free Basics Incubator is a unique programme designed to accelerate the impact and growth of social change organisations through and the Free Basics Platform.

Praekelt and Facebook will be onboarding 100 social change organisations using the Incubator, which will pave the way for thousands more to make use of'€™s Free Basics Platform.

Selected by an independent panel of advisors, organisations joining the incubator will be provided with access to:

Tools and Technical Support
These are designed to make content more accessible for first-time internet users, particularly those using feature phones in resource-constrained environments. This system will allow organisations to manage and publish feature-rich content and services on the Free Basics platform. For a 12-month period, beneficiaries will also enjoy free hosting and limited technical support.

Content Development will work with partners to analyse and adapt their existing content in order to ensure it is: suitable for delivery via Free Basics; engaging to end users; and geared to be impactful. Where necessary, Praekelt will guide partners in the creation of new content and services, which take advantage of some of the unique features of the Free Basics platform.

Capacity Building & Leadership
The team at will work closely with the selected partner organisations to train them on the use of the publishing platform and a host of other tools they'€™ll need to shift or scale up their work, from offline and online to digital and mobile.

Who is funding this programme?

Facebook and are co-funding this initiative in order to enable virtually any social change organisation to use'€™s Free Basics platform.

Why are we doing this &€“ what is the big picture?

The aim of the incubator is to accelerate the growing number of organisations providing services on Free Basics, allowing over one billion current platform users to access even more life-enhancing services.

Who can apply?

Any nonprofit organisation, social enterprise, government agency or aid agency with digital, non-static content that aims to improve the lives of people in poverty. We are aiming to attract organisations from the following sectors:

  1. Health
  2. Economic Empowerment
  3. Gender Equality
  4. Youth
  5. Agriculture
  6. Citizen Engagement
  7. Education

Which areas are eligible to apply?

Free Basics is currently available in over 35 countries. We hope to attract organisations in countries where the programme is already active. However, organisations from any other global region are welcome to apply.

The 35 focus countries are:

  • Angola
  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Bolivia
  • Cambodia
  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Maldives
  • Mauritania
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Mozambique
  • Niger
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Timor Leste
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia

What makes potential content partners interesting?

  • The messaging and content that an organisation authors, or uses as one of its tools for impact, fits into at least one of the seven pillars listed above.
  • The organisation has specific and proven expertise, and insight into the communities in which it works.
  • The organisation is able to support its online messaging with programmes where its target market can participate in real life, in the territory or territories in which the organisation operates.
  • The organisation has a vested interest in engaging its intended target market via mobile; the target audience has adequate access to mobile data, and internal capacity to make the most of the opportunity.
  • A clear commitment to the success of the Incubator programme and a perceived willingness to make the most of the opportunity
  • A strong ethical track record, especially in respect of access to user data - e.g. around use of Incubator features.

What is good content?

For the Free Basics Incubator, content should:

  • Be digitised already, or the organisation has clear capacity to digitise it themselves.
  • Be predominantly about the reader and his or her life; not about the organisation and its programmes (i.e. an organisation that fundraises via its current website so that it can do its work separately, is not appropriate).
  • Have regional specificity, expert authenticity and some degree of Behaviour Change messaging
  • Conform to our Mobile Content Principles, or be adapted by the organisation to meet these ideals.
  • Be available in relevant languages.

What additional site management capacities are required?

  • In order to create and manage content and sustain its Free Basics Incubator mobisite, each organisation should have the capacity to:
  • Work with us to adapt its existing content for mobile using our guidance, and that of our Mobile Content Principles document
  • Manage, maintain and generate their own content over time and manage content on the site itself.
  • Manage user engagement (with special attention paid to moderating comments on articles) and take steps to ensure that the safety of users is protected at all times.
  • Ensure that the identity and privacy of its users are protected both on the site and by third party advertisers, market researchers etc.
  • Obtain active consent for the use of user data.
  • Ensure data is securely transmitted, managed and stored.
  • Be transparent about the data they collect, how long they store it for and why it is necessary.
  • Administer and operate additional features and functionality that are made available over time, which will dramatically improve user engagement and ultimately the success of the Incubator programme.

What qualifies as a good service for the Incubator?

For this platform, we are specifically looking for organisations that offer content and/or services that ultimately improve the lives of the general public. For example, a good service would be one that enables people to make better decisions about topics such as health or employability. We are specifically looking for organisations that offer information, skills or services in the following areas:

  • CV building / interview preparation skills / improving your employability
  • Job boards
  • Health-related services, including:
    1. immunisations
    2. where to access family planning
    3. what to ask a doctor or nurse
    4. directories of specific types of clinics or health services
    5. where to go or what to do in cases of sexual or other forms of abuse
  • Legal advice, know your rights, child rights
  • Financial literacy
  • Reading / English literacy
  • Maths and science literacy / tutorials
  • How to get a driver'€™s licence (K53)
  • How and where to apply for bursaries, study loans or internships
  • Agriculture - how to start and sustain a food garden

What additional site management is required?

In order to create and manage a service and sustain an Incubator mobisite, the organisation must have capacity to:

  • Respond to user requests or comments in a suitable timeframe.
  • Ensure data is securely transmitted, managed and stored.

What kind of features are available on the Platform?

  • Articles and categories
  • Commenting
  • Polls
  • Live chat for end users (requires partner moderation &€“ management capacity is important)
  • User Generated Content (requires partner moderation & management capacity is important)
  • Service rating
  • Search functionality

Team requirements

Potential partner organisations need a dedicated team member who takes time to engage with our platform and learn how to use it. This resource will need to update content regularly. (Note: the time requirement is highly dependent on the amount of content provided on the platform.)

Is there a legal contract?

Selected partners will be expected to agree to standard terms and conditions between the and the content partner, which will outline how all parties will work together.

This document will serve to outline what we will offer, as well as the commitment we require from partners who are selected for the programme.

How will training work?

Once partners have been selected for the Free Basics Incubator programme, Praekelt will engage with them and organise a comprehensive training session up front to make sure they understand the Content Management System (CMS), how it works and how to use it.

This will consist of a two-hour Skype-led session (that partners can break up into shorter sessions if this is preferred), during which the Relationship Manager and tech team will teach the organisation how to log in, navigate, load content and change the look of the content on the CMS. It will also teach partners how they can change their content on a regular basis, so that sites will never be static. Finally it will teach partners all available tools that the system has featured.

A complete user manual will also be made accessible to partners via the platform. This can be referred back to at any time.

How will ongoing support work?

Support for selected candidates will include:

  • Access to content guidelines
  • Platform/CMS training (via Skype)
  • Content development workshops for sub-selection of candidates (20 out of 100)
  • Access to a helpdesk

What criteria are organisations shortlisted against before being submitted to the panel for evaluation?

Does the organisation have the potential to reach large volumes of people if they're included on Free Basics?

Relevance of Content
Is the organisation's service or content relevant to large numbers of people?

Impact: Organisation
Can, through taking this organisation into the Free Basics Programme, radically increase the partner's ability to reach their desired impact? Is there scope for impact in the specific region represented by the work and content of the organisation?

Approach: Organisation
Does the organisation have, or is it currently working towards, an evidence-based approach to delivering impact to its audience? Secondly, does the organisation have the capacity to adapt its evidence-based impact approach to a set of impact principles governing its site?

Scale Potential
Does the organisation show potential to grow on the Free Basics platform?

Does the messaging and content of the organisation have a wide-enough geographic reach and/or sufficiently broad areas of operation in order to be a good fit for the Incubator?

Expertise and Knowledge
Does the organisation have specific and proven expertise, knowledge and insight into the communities in which it works? Is this evidenced in its content?

Organisational Capacity: Content Creation and maintenance
Is the organisation able to adapt content to mobile principles, and does it have organisational capacity to maintain and administer its site?

Is the organisation collaborating with others in the field of operation, or is it more of solo effort with no focus on working with fellow NGOs, government, etc?

Mobile First
Does the organisation have a strong mobile or digital focus? I.e. the primary mode of engagement with the project is through mobile or digital channels.

Will this NGO's activities be sustained over the next two years? Are they planning activities and the mobisite with sustainability in mind?

Capacity Building Benefit
To what extent will this organisation benefit from the consultation and capacity building the Incubator provides?

What kind of questions can I expect if I get shortlisted for potential selection?


  • How do you want to use Free Basics and why do you think you should be one of the 100 organisations selected for this programme?
  • What is your content team capacity? (Keep in mind the current format of your content and how often you think it will need to be curated in order to achieve the goal of your site.)


  • Is your content meant to be ‘fresh’ (i.e. regularly changed and updated)? Does it need to be?
  • How often would you be curating content?
  • Are you collecting information/reporting/petitions?
  • Are you providing access to a database or directory of sorts?
  • Is your content sequential or presented in learning modules (modular format)?
  • How many languages is the content available in? What are the future plans for this?
  • Do you have a strategy or vision for the content?
  • How do you want to use the site to improve your content?


  • How do you envision tracking the impact of the site?
  • If you are going to be collecting information, who does this information go to and how will you be using it?

Who decides which NGOs get selected to enter the Free Basics Incubator programme?

An independent panel of advisors with experience in other incubator programmes and ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) will review incoming applications and decide which NGOs will be selected for the onboarding process.

This panel of advisors will be engaged on a voluntary basis and consist of a variety of globally-respected development figures from different countries, with a wealth of experience among them.

What can I expect if we are selected?

A global platform giving your essential, life-enhancing information to millions of people across the world, those who need it most.

To get you started:

  • The Incubator for Free Basics Relationship Manager, Kathi Wohl, will introduce you to the platform and explain the basic terms of use. During this 45-minute Skype session, you will be briefed on the terms and conditions outlined in this document for the utilisation of this platform, as well as Facebook'€™s requirements.
  • You are then expected to sign the terms and conditions document prior to the two-hour training session and send it back to Kathi. (1)
  • Kathi will schedule a training session with you.
  • You will then receive a two-hour training session via Skype on how to setup and launch your mobisite.
  • You will receive a comprehensive take-home Content Toolkit to optimise your content for mobile.

Once you are up and running:

  • You will receive one year free hosting. (2)
  • You will have access to an online FAQ section on your personalised dashboard.
  • You will have access to a helpdesk to log requests when you are unable to resolve an issue/query via the FAQs.
  • You will receive 2.5 hours email support via a helpdesk ticketing system for the duration of the first year.
  • If you require more comprehensive support, a unique support package can be created for you and this will be a paid-for service.

(1) Should you wish not to sign the terms and conditions document, we will not be able to onboard you onto the platform.

(2) After the first 12 months of free hosting, you will be expected to pay a set hosting fee.