Facebook’s initiative Internet.org has garnered close to 8 lakh users since its launch four months back, the social media giant said Monday.

The initiative which hopes to improve the internet penetration by providing access to mobile internet to people for the first time was launched in India in collaboration which Reliance Communications (RCOM) earlier this year.However, the initiative which provides free internet access to a bunch of websites free of cost came under fire after social media backlash against the zero rating tariff plan proposed by Bharti Airtel. Across all social media platforms, netizens also criticized Facebook for alleged violation of net neutrality.

“The goal of Internet.org is to allow more people to experience the benefits of being online. Latest data from the program points that people are accessing the services and that first time users are aware of how internet services are valuable to them,” Facebook said. According to Facebook, intenet.org had recorded 8 lakh users in the country in seven circles, about 20% of whom were previously not active on mobile data. For new internet users acquired by Internet.org, only 7% of data usage was Internet.org

“The goal is to extend the services to the rest of the country in a phased manner, and gradually add more telecom operators and services ranging from news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information,” the statement said.

The new Internet users acquired by Internet.org are now consuming over 100 MB of data a month outside of Internet.org, that is, paying for data from Reliance. Recently, Facebook announced an open programme for developers to create services that integrate with Internet.org. Internet.org states that it aims to bring 5 billion people online in partnership with tech giants like Samsung and Qualcomm.

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