It is our mission to provide free access to knowledge for everyone in the world. It’s only fitting then that today we announced our first Wikipedia Zero partnership launch in India, the world’s second most populous country with over 1.2 billion people. Our new partnership with Aircel will give 60 million mobile subscribers in India the potential to access Wikipedia at no data cost, bringing the program’s global partnership footprint to 470 million subscribers.
While mobile penetration in India is over 70 percent (867 million subscribers), the total Internet audience of India is only 77 million people (Comscore, June 2013), roughly the same as Japan (73 million, Comscore June 2013) – a country with 1/10th the population. Infrastructural and economic barriers in India, where income per capita is 1/30th that of Japan, have led to this divide in information access. However, the proliferation of mobile – and programs like Wikipedia Zero – will change that. Already, India has passed Japan to become 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 . We hope to further catalyze this transformation as Wikipedia users on Aircel can access English, Hindi, Tamil or any of the other 17 Indic language Wikipedias without being charged data fees .
To meet our commitment to bringing free knowledge to everyone in the world, we need to break down the barriers that prevent access. With Wikipedia Zero officially available today on Aircel in India, we’re one step closer to that objective.
Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation
- From stats.wikimedia.org, June 2013: Hindi Wikipedia page views (2.1M mobile /9.5M all); Wikipedia worldwide (3,672M mobile/21,229M all)
- A phone or browser must have the capability to render an Indic font in order to access non-English versions.
- Copyright notes: "Mumbai Construction worker cellphone November 2011 -47" by Victor Grigas, under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, from Wikimedia Commons