Wikipedia Wants to Be Free — for Mobile Users, in Africa




orange wikipedia image

Wikipedia went dark to fight SOPA, but its shining bright as a light for mobile users in Africa and the Middle East (AMEA). Wikipedia will be free to use — without any data usage charges — for users on Orange’s mobile network.

Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia, announced on Tuesday that they’re making the digital encyclopedia and its store of information available to a continent of people with limited access to information resources.

“Wikipedia is an important service, a public good — and so we want people to be able to access it for free, regardless of what device they’re using,” says Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn’t.”

Any customer with an Orange SIM and Internet-enabled phone in the AMEA will be able to browse Wikipedia’s mobile site at no charge, providing they stay within Wikipedia’s pages. The site can be accessed through a browser or Wikipedia widget. The partnership is part of a larger campaign by the Wikimedia Foundation to reach people around the world who access the Internet solely through their phones.

Information is a linchpin of any society. Yet in the AMEA many people do not have access to information, whether that means detailed reports on crop conditions, political news or even the junkier, less relevant pockets of the Internet (Kardashians, anyone?). Wikipedia makes all of that information readily available and free to use for an entire region of people that rely on their mobile phones to connect to the world around them. The offering gives access to more than 20 million articles available in more than 280 languages. Sure, sometimes the articles are inaccurate or purposely hacked, but its definitely an improvement over not having Wikipedia at all.

The offering will roll out gradually throughout 2012, across 20 African and Middle Eastern countries where Orange operates.

Is Wikipedia looking for more users or is this partnership a way to help a region get more information? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, whiteafrican

More About: africa, middle east, Mobile, non-profit, wikipedia

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