• Jana Raises $57M to Bring Unrestricted Access to the World

    Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 8.14.22 PMNathan Eagle was a Fulbright scholar from MIT, teaching at the University of Nairobi, when he had his “aha moment.”

    Specifically, Eagle was teaching a mobile phone programming curriculum at the school when he and his students built an SMS system that enabled rural nurses to text information about low blood supply levels to centralized blood banks. (Earlier, the nurses depended on someone who drove from hospital to hospital, reporting back who needed what.)

    The system earned Eagle praise and a photo in the local papers. Unfortunately, the nurses almost immediately stopped using the system. The reason: the onerous costs of text messaging. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was basically asking them to take a pay cut,” says Eagle.

    Indeed, in many countries, including India, Brazil, and Indonesia, one of the main barriers to connectivity is the crippling cost of data. Facebook reminded the world of this problem when its India-focused Free Basics program — designed to offer free Internet access to certain sites only — was recently banned by India’s telecom regulator, which ruled that the practice of charging different prices to different customers is not acceptable.

    Now, Facebook’s fumble looks well-timed for Eagle’s company, Jana, which has been quietly providing free, unrestricted Internet access in emerging markets.

    How it works: through an Android app by Jana called mCent, users must first agree to immersive advertising experiences, like spending five to 10 minutes using Amazon’s app in exchange for 20 to 50 megabytes of data.

    Another advertising client of Jana’s, the popular, India-based music streaming service Saavn, gives customers 10 free songs that they can listen to any time they want. The idea is to give those users a sense that their phone is much more than a two-way communication device; it’s a music player, too.

    More here.

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