Wikimedia, Orange to offer free Wikipedia in Africa, Middle East

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The Wikimedia foundation is teaming up with mobile giant Orange to provide access to Wikipedia – without incurring any data charges.

The project is reportedly an extension of a partnership forged between Orange and the Wikimedia foundation in 2009. The net result of that partnership, Orange claims, was “the world’s first mobile and internet partnership to expand the reach of Wikimedia’s projects through channels on Orange mobile and web portals in Europe”.

The partnership, will see the two providing access to the world’s largest online encyclopaedia to users in these emerging market countries. Any user with an Orange SIM-card plus an internet-capable phone will now be able to access Wikipedia without incurring data charges. If a user clicks to a website outside of Wikipedia, data costs will be charged.

The free-to-browse Wikipedia will slowly roll out across 20 countries in both the Middle East and Africa. Billions of users globally are only able to access the web via a mobile phone, this initiative aims to make their lives that much easier.

“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.”

Marc Rennard, Group Executive Vice President of Orange, Africa, the Middle-East and Asia believes that project will be a valuable source of information, for people in places where it can be scarce commodity: “In countries where access to information is not always readily available, we are making it simple and easy for our customers to use the world’s most comprehensive online encyclopaedia. It is the first partnership of this kind in the world where we are enabling customers to access Wikipedia without incurring any data charges; and shows Orange’s ability, once again, to innovate in Africa and the Middle East, and bring more value to our customers.”

“The Wikimedia Foundation will remain committed to spreading knowledge to as many people in the world as possible,” says Stephanie Hospital, Executive Vice President, Orange Audience and Advertising division.

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