Wikipedia has begun piloting a service that sends articles via text message, primarily aimed at users in Africa.
The Wikimedia Foundation on Oct. 24 announced that it would launch a three-month test of Wikipedia Zero in Kenya, in partnership with the wireless carrier Airtel. Wikipedia Zero, which first launched in late 2011, lets users read Wikipedia on feature phones without having to pay data charges.
“There has been a steady move towards putting educational material online in many African countries, led mainly by the private sector rather than governments, but access to the internet remains a problem given that most Africans surf on their phones rather than browsers.”
– Tom Jackson, Editor of the African Technology News Site Humanipo
Wikipedia Zero was launched on July 25 in India, via the country’s seventh largest wireless carrier, Aircel.
“To meet our commitment to bringing free knowledge to everyone in the world, we need to break down the barriers that prevent access. With Wikipedia Zero officially available today on Aircel in India, we’re one step closer to that objective.”
– Amit Kapoor, Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation noted that India has 22 officially recognized national languages, making it difficult to curate a single version of Wikipedia for the country.
Airtel Africa is a subsidiary of the India-based Airtel. It operates in 17 countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, DR Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rep. of Congo, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Aircel has 60 million subscribers, while India has 867 million mobile phone subscribers overall. It’s the third largest mobile phone market in the world.
Wikipedia Zero (its simplified interface is pictured here) is also available in several other countries, including Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.