Middle East & Africa to Get Data-Free Wikipedia

by Jason Wire Jan 24, 2012
The world’s freest encyclopedia just got even freer.

IN A PRESS RELEASE today by the Wikimedia Foundation and Orange, it was announced that mobile users across Africa and the Middle East will soon have access to the entirety of Wikipedia — without incurring a single data charge (so long as they’re using Orange).

Back in December, I interviewed Wikipedia programmer, designer, and all-around-knowledge-lover Brandon Harris about Wikipedia’s mission to bring all of the world’s knowledge to every part of the world in as many languages as possible — and he mentioned the idea of Wikipedia pushing for free access to its data across mobile servers. The way he explained it (I think — I’m not positive on this) was that there are these satellites in space, they have a massive amount of bandwidth, and the Wikipedia information could be piggybacked through that extra bandwidth without costing the telecom companies anything.

The service will be released to Orange’s 70 million users in the Africa/Middle East region gradually throughout 2012.

“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,” said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn’t. We’re thrilled to be Orange’s partner in this important endeavour.”

I don’t think I need to even touch on the most important part of this whole deal:

Location, location, location.

* Read the Wikimedia/Orange press release.

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