Wikimedia Foundation's initiative to provide free mobile access to Wikipedia to users in emerging nations, also known as Wikipedia Zero, has now arrived in India. Wikimedia Foundation has tied up with Aircel for the rolling out of the project in the country.
With the partnership, Aircel users in the country will have unlimited access to Wikipedia content – m.wikipedia.org - without any additional data charges. Users will also have access to versions of Wikipedia in English, Hindi, Tamil, and 17 other Indian languages. Aircel users also get free access to zero.wikipedia.org, a text-only version of Wikipedia's mobile site.
Wikimedia Foundation's partnership with Aircel is valid for a period of 3 years. Wikimedia Foundation had first launched Wikipedia Zero project in Uganda in April 2012 with the local mobile operator, Orange. Later in 2012, the campaign was rolled out in countries namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, followed by Pakistan in May 2013 and Sri Lanka next month.
"Through our alliance with the Wikimedia Foundation, Aircel is not only making internet services reach a wider audience, but also helping to encourage and enrich the lives of our customers by offering access to knowledge and information free of cost. We are excited about this partnership and hope this initiative will benefit all our customers from various age groups,” says Anupam Vasudev, Chief Marketing Officer for Aircel.
"We hail Aircel's commitment to enhancing and expanding access to free knowledge for their mobile customers. With the partnership, we extend our program to India where we potentially reach millions of people for the first time." adds Kul Takanao Wadhwa, Head of Mobile with the Wikimedia Foundation. "Aircel is one of the operators across the globe that has contributed towards expanding free access to Wikipedia Zero to 470 mn mobile users."
Wikimedia Foundation in a blog post explains the possible challenges ahead in the roll out of the initiative in India, where mobile penetration is over 70 percent and is the third largest smartphone market in the world.
“The challenge in enabling knowledge access in India is not just about distribution and cost, though; it’s also about language. India has no national language, but there are 22 recognized official languages in the country. Many Indians are not only accessing the internet for the first time on mobile, but also non-English content is becoming accessible for the first time via mobile. Hindi Wikipedia, for example, currently has 22.1 percent of page views globally coming from mobile compared to 17.3 percent for all other languages ,” says Amit Kapoor Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation.