The Philippines is a very tech-forward nation, even as an emerging market. In fact, the country recently began the development of smart cities and even smart countrysides in an attempt to become a global hub for business process outsourcing (BPO).
Even on the consumer side, though, tech adoption is high, especially in terms of mobile.
Indeed mobile penetration in the country is 100 percent, and yet only a minority of the population can afford the latest high-end smartphones and the pricy data plans that come with them. But Google is working to change this, along with local telco Globe Telecom, by bringing smartphone-level functions to even the most basic Internet-enabled phones.
As such, the two companies launched Free Zone powered by Google in Manilla this week, which lets Globe subscribers check their Gmail inboxes and use Google search functions for free.
Free Zone's capabilities may be fairly limited—offering only the ability to view websites, check Gmail and use Google+ — but it does offer a decent basic level of functionality not previously available on feature phones. Even those provided capabilities are themselves limited, obviously lacking the sophistication seen on full smart devices.
Free Zone users are also not able to directly type in a Web address, instead being limited to routing to pages via Google Web search.
Still, though, even this limited functionality will bring mobile Internet to many for free.
“The open Web is only as open as it is affordable,” said Abdel Karim Mardini, a product manager at Google. “We’re hoping Free Zone will make the mobile Internet feel like a necessity that everyone can use, rather than a luxury.”
Currently, Google and Globe Telecom only have plans to run this service until March 2013, after which point it may be renewed or shut down.
Globe Telecom was recently honored by Frost & Sullivan at the 2012 Frost & Sullivan Philippines Excellence Awards banquet as both Broadband Service Provider of the Year and Telecom Service Provider of the Year.
Edited by Braden Becker