At the beginning of this year, we launched Wikipedia Zero with the aim of reducing barriers to accessing knowledge on mobile devices. Many people in the developing world use mobile phones as their primary–or only–means to access the Internet. Through partnerships with telecommunications companies, Wikipedia Zero removes the cost of data as an obstacle between individuals and the power of knowledge.
There are close to 6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, but less than 600 million broadband connections, or 1/10th. Broadband connections are relatively scarce in developing countries, with less than 5 connections per 100 people, but there is nearly one mobile subscription per every single person on the planet .
As mobile becomes more of a ubiquitous access point in developing countries, it has immense potential to bring knowledge to many people who previously had limited means to access information. We’ve repeated this message throughout the year, and I wanted to share some data that substantiate our target for the Wikipedia Zero program. Below is a list of the top 25 most mobile-centric countries, meaning those that have the highest ratio of mobile to overall traffic on Wikipedia:
Of the top 25, there are 22 countries classified as developing. Twelve of them, including all of the top 8, are in Africa. Even more telling is that 16 of these countries have mobile usage percentages greater than 20 percent. Compare that to the global average of 11.5 percent–and 15.6 percent in the U.S.–and you get a sense for how much potential mobile has to change the world.
In 2012, we announced Wikipedia Zero partnerships in 31 developing countries. Eleven of those have launched so far, and from what we’ve seen, they’ve had measurable impact. In 2013, we plan to bring a lot more partners and countries on board, many of them on the list above. We expect the percentages in the list to increase even more next year, and we hope that our efforts help drive the accessibility and awareness of Wikipedia to accelerate the trend.
(Special thanks to volunteer Kajari Ghosh for helping compile this data.)
Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships