Wikipedia Zero Reaches South Africa

South Africa now enjoys Wikipedia Zero powered by MTN. Wikipedia Zero is a project which allows mobile phone users, using the MTN network, to access content and articles on Wikipedia for free.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia for doing research and study, improved and authored by users across the world. It’s a collaborative online platform, inviting people of varying backgrounds to share their knowledge. Wikipedia is the only online encyclopedia reaching millions of users in over 100 different languages (English Wikipedia is the most widely used).

MTN is a giant mobile telecommunications company with coverage almost all over Africa.

Wikipedia Zero is an initiative of the Wikimedia Foundation to enable mobile access to Wikipedia free of data charges in developing countries. The objective of the programme is to reduce barriers to accessing free knowledge—one of the largest barriers being cost of data usage. The Wikimedia Foundation wants to enable access to free knowledge for every single person on the planet. For many readers in developing countries, their primary (and often only) access to the internet is via mobile.

MTN’s sponsorship of the Wikipedia Zero program in South Africa was in response to a letter (that evolved into a video) from a class of learners at Sinenjongo High School in Cape Town. The learners wrote an open letter on Facebook, requesting free access to Wikipedia on their cellphones so that they could do their homework. The learners do not have a library at school, nor do they have internet access at home. The only books that they do have are those issued at school, so they have limited access to information.

MTN came to their rescue, becoming the first telecom in South Africa to bring the Wikipedia Zero initiative into the country. Read more here

The benefits to the public and students, in particular, are immense. According to Wikipedia Zero documentation:


“The benefits to users and the Wikimedia movement are clear. For supporting the mission, and undertaking the costs associated with deployment and data, the partner operator can also realize a number of very practical benefits. The first of which is the positive marketing and PR benefit of supporting the program, and the opportunity of offering a unique and distinct service to new and potential customers. Data shows that 28% of existing readers would be more likely to buy services from an operator that provided Wikipedia Zero. Finally, by making it free and easy to access Wikipedia, a new generation of customers will be introduced to the mobile web for the first time—and, for many, will be seeing the true utility of it by learning to navigate Wikipedia.”

We hope that this MTN initiative will be replicated by other telecommunication networks in Africa. And perhaps, MTN will expand the Wikipedia Zero programme to other African countries in which they operate, such as Ghana…!

To access Wikipedia for free, users require an Opera Mini browser. Gradually and hopefully, we believe MTN will make access more general, by allowing a greater array of mobile phone users to enjoy access to Wikipedia Zero.

Learn more about the Wikipedia Zero initiative.

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