Facebook hires former BlackBerry exec for Internet.org app

Former BlackBerry BBM head Andrew Bocking has joined Facebook as the leader of the company's new Internet.org app for smartphones, reports Re/code.

Bocking will now act as project manager for the Internet.org app, which aims to bring internet connectivity and web resources to the world's most disadvantaged areas. The software was launched in August 2013 and is backed by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Internet.org reached Zambia earlier in the month, allowing residents to use a variety of free internet services such as Google Search, Facebook, Wikipedia, AccuWeather and more.

Guy Rosen, product management director at Internet.org, said: "Over 85 per cent of the world's population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage, yet only about 30 per cent of the total population accesses the internet.

"Affordability and awareness are significant barriers to internet adoption for many and today we are introducing the... app to make the internet accessible to more people by providing a set of free services."

Right now, only 15 per cent of people in Zambia have access to the internet," Zuckerberg added in a Facebook post ahead of the launch. "Soon, everyone will be able to use the internet for free to find jobs, get help with reproductive health and other aspects of health, and use tools like Facebook to stay connected with the people they love."

Bocking parted ways with BlackBerry after 13 years back in February, though reasons for his departure were not publicly revealed at the time.

While at the company, he was in charge of BBM for Android and iOS, which became the number one free app on both app stores on its first day.

Despite the app's success, however, hardware sales have been steadily declining in the face of competition from Android and Apple. BlackBerry has just concluded a significant restructuring process, with an increased focus on business customers going forwards.

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

You can get in touch with Caroline via email at caroline.preece@futurenet.com.