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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Wikipedia Zero

Ram Prasad Joshi: Writing Wikipedia from the western hills of Nepal

Ram Prasad Joshi

Ram Prasad Joshi doesn’t have a computer. His village may be beautiful but there is no electricity. It’s a three-hour walk to the nearest road. In spite of all this, Joshi has accumulated more than 6,000 edits to the Nepali Wikipedia using nothing more than a feature phone.

An image shot by Ram Prasad Joshi on his feature phone: Devotees paying homage to the Thama Mai Temple (replica of Badimalika, Bajura) in Dailekh

“On Wikipedia I write about geography, history and culture of my surroundings,” he said. “I am a Hindu so I write about the Hindu religion and Hindu culture. I edit and write new articles on the Sanskrit, Hindi, Fijian, Bhojpuri and Gujrati Wikipedias, as well as in Nepali. I can introduce my village, my locality and my culture to the world.”

An image shot by Ram Prasad Joshi on his feature phone: Stone script of Damupal near Kartikhamba in Dailekh established by King Prithivi Malla B.S. 1038 (981 A.D.). It is claimed to be the first stone script in the Nepali Language.

In addition to his writing, Joshi has contributed almost a hundred photographs to Wikimedia Commons. He took part in Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 and his images of archaeological monuments in his area won him the prize for best mobile contributor.

Due to its remote geography, his contributions may be the only representation his village will get online. “No newspapers, no magazines, nothing arrives here,” he explains. “In my village there are many people who have never seen a television. Now the mobile phone emerged, villagers watch videos on mobile, but no-one owns a television.”

For Joshi, his initial introduction to editing began on a somber note four years ago. While living and working in Haridwar, a small city in northeast India, his mother became seriously ill and passed away. “According to Hindu culture, all children should perform the rituals; they have to sit isolated for thirteen days in mourning,” he explained. “I was grieved greatly by her loss. My eyes still become wet when I remember her death. Parents are regarded as the almighty and holy in my culture.”

“I had to find ways to divert my thoughts from the memories of mom. As a way to vent my grief, I began to surf mobile internet more which helped me a lot. I explored the Nepali Wikipedia. I also saw the edit button in each article and the sub heading too. I then learned that I could edit these encyclopedia entries. When I remember my mom, I open Wikipedia and read or edit,” he added.

Fortunately, Joshi might no longer be alone in his editing endeavors; soon others will be able to benefit just as he did. Wikipedia Zero’s partnership with Nepali GSM mobile operator Ncell has given more people the opportunity to learn what Wikipedia is and how they can contribute to Wikimedia projects. “I have conveyed to my family and my villagers about Wikipedia,” said Joshi. “But for most people the Internet is out of reach, so it is a vague topic for them. After Ncell announced [their partnership with] Wikipedia Zero, some have given concern to it. Earlier when I started talking about Wikipedia they treated me as if I had gone mad.”

“Ncell broadcast advertisements for Wikipedia Zero through local radio. Many people now understand that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Ncell’s partnership is ideal for those looking to access and contribute to Wikipedia from a mobile phone, in the same way Joshi has for so long.

Wikipedia Zero will accelerate Wikipedia in Nepal

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English  • Nepali

Screenshot of Nepali Wikipedia.

This is a guest post from Nepali Wikipedian Ganesh Paudel and does not necessarily express the views of the Wikimedia Foundation. 

On May 6th mobile operator NCELL announced the launch of Wikipedia Zero in Nepal. Wikipedia Zero is expected to be a very useful service in Nepal, where over 90% of internet users access the internet using their mobile phones. The service will provide Nepalese users in very remote areas access to Wikipedia – free of cost. The local Wikipedia community, Wikipedia Education Program leaders, Wiki Poject Med and all volunteer contributors are excited by the news.

The Wikipedia Zero team and local Wikimedians are communicating with Nepal Telecom, the government owned mobile operator company, to encourage them to start this service as well. Throughout the years, Wikipedia has been established as an increasingly effective educational tool. There will surely be an acceleration in use and expansion of Wikipedia after launching Wikipedia Zero in Nepal. Currently, five languages have pages that serve the Nepal Wikipedia community – Nepali, Newari, Bhojpuri, Pali and Sanskrit. Ten other language Wikipedia pages are in test phases. This service will broaden the path to develop local content in all 123 languages spoken in Nepal.

So what exactly is Wikipedia Zero? Wikipedia Zero is a free browsing service that allows users to surf Wikipedia pages without incurring data charges. The name refers to the zero cost of using the service. The Wikimedia Foundation provides this service in collaboration with mobile operators. If the user clicks on an external link, a message will warn them that ‘this service is chargeable’ to ensure that accidental data charges are not acquired.


Wikimedia Bangladesh and Grameenphone arranged a Wikipedia Contributor Day in Dhaka

Participants at the Wikipedia Contributor day organized by Wikimedia Bangladesh and Grameenphone

On Sunday and Monday, 16/17 February 2014, Wikimedia Bangladesh (WMBD) and Grameenphone (a Telenor concern) jointly arranged a two-day long event titled ‘Wikipedia Contributor Day’ with i-Genius students.

Grameenphone/Telenor is a Wikipedia Zero partner. We organized two days of workshops on Bengali Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. Grameenphone chose the participants from last year’s i-Genius students, which are selected from all over the country through a year-long program conducted by Grameenphone and the daily newspaper Prothom Alo. Usually one i-Genius is selected from every district of Bangladesh.

The goal of the workshops were to introduce Wikipedia (especially Bengali Wikipedia), and show the attendees how to edit the articles and contribute photographs to Wikimedia Commons. Most participants were new to Wikipedia, but at the same time we found several of them were already contributing to Wikipedia. It was very inspiring for us.

Munir Hasan, President of Wikimedia Bangladesh, conducted the introductory session. He said that the chapter is trying to focus on creating new editors and volunteers and this initiative will be helpful to create new Wikimedians.

I (Nurunnaby Chowdhury) and another Bengali Wikipedia sysop and Wikimedia Bangladesh EC member, Nasir Khan, conducted workshops at this two-day event with i-Genius students. Grameenphone Limited provided the event venue, at their corporate headquarters located in Dhaka city. On the event days, another sysop of Bengali Wikipedia, Nahid Sultan, was present and helped the attendees to edit and create new articles and so on.

Altogether, over 53 participants attended on the two days of the workshop. We planned for 70 participants, but some of the i-Genius students could not join due to the exam schedule. A few of the interested attendees had experimented with editing Wikipedia, and they had started asking questions to the organizers even before the event was launched!

The workshop was an all-day event with a lot of fun activities. More than 30 participants attended on the first day. After the introduction session, we divided the participants into several groups and one facilitator was assigned to each of the groups. The facilitator helped their group to create and expand a Wikipedia article by themselves. The participants moved around and made friends with each other and the organizers during the lunch break. During the afternoon session, the participants asked to clarify their doubts about editing. Organizers gave a brief introduction about the Wikimedia Bangladesh chapter, and they conducted sessions on how to add references to a Wikipedia article and how to upload pictures to Commons. On the second day, another 30 students joined this program. During the program we delivered hands-on presentations on how to edit, how to contribute, and how to donate photos to Commons. Moreover, we enriched some articles that seemed incomplete. After the successful completion of the program, all i-Genius students receive certificates and my written book about Bengali Wikipedia. This book was published at the last Ekushey Book Fair in 2013.

There were many interesting and engaging queries from a few of the participants who had already edited articles on Wikipedia. It was nice to discover that some of the participants wanted to connect with the local Wikimedia community. Several participants and the organizers wrote to thank us for conducting the workshop. The event was a success in that it introduced the audience to various ways of getting involved with the Wikimedia movement, thereby changing the perception that the only way to get involved is by writing articles online.

Nurunnaby Chowdhury & Nasir Khan, Wikimedians

Open letter for free access to Wikipedia on mobile in South Africa

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In November 2012, the students of Sinenjongo High School penned an open letter on Facebook, encouraging cellphone carriers to waive data charges for accessing Wikipedia so they can do their homework. In May 2013, filmmaker Charlene Music and I asked them to read their open letter on camera. Below is the video of their letter:

The cost of data is a major obstacle to accessing the free knowledge on Wikipedia for hundreds of millions of people. These students want their cellphone carriers to sign up to Wikipedia Zero, a partnership program organized by the Wikimedia Foundation to enable mobile access to Wikipedia – free of data charges – in developing countries.

We will be sharing the longer documentary about the class as soon as it’s ready. While we are still editing the longer documentary, we’re looking for:

1.) A few skilled volunteers who can help to translate captions to accompany the video above and the longer documentary. There are currently eleven official languages in South Africa alone. We need volunteers to create captions for all those languages, and as many other languages as possible.

2.) A motion graphics or digital artist who could help us design and animate a few titles, maps and statistics for the documentary. If you are interested, feel free to email me: vgrigas at or get in touch with me on my talk page User:Vgrigas.

3.) If you agree with these students, please share the video above.

Victor Grigas
Visual Storyteller, Wikimedia Foundation


Telenor Wikipedia Zero partnership will provide free access to Wikipedia on mobile in Myanmar

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas at celebration.

As we announced today, the Wikimedia Foundation and Telenor have expanded our Wikipedia Zero partnership established in early 2012 to now include Myanmar. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was in Oslo today and celebrated the agreement with Telenor’s President and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas.

On 27 June 2013, Telenor was named one of two successful applicants for a telecommunications license in Myanmar. With new mobile competition the country will see better network service, internet-capable phones and lower prices to drive mobile internet usage.

This is a big deal because Myanmar currently has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in the world of less than 10 percent – only North Korea and Eritrea have lower rates. The Myanmar government’s stated objective is to increase mobile penetration to 80 percent in the next three years (overall internet penetration is estimated at roughly one percent). Another 40 million people will get mobile service, and many of them will be introduced to the internet for the first time.

With the extension of the partnership, Telenor Myanmar’s future mobile subscribers will be able to access the vast knowledge base in Wikipedia free of data charges. And they will be able to freely contribute their voices to Wikipedia. Today some people in Myanmar use Wikipedia, primarily in English, but usage is not widespread. The local Wikimedia community is working to grow the Burmese language version to reach a wider audience.

Removing barriers to access Wikipedia for people in Myanmar is a major step toward our goal of making the sum of all human knowledge available to everyone. We’re excited to see the benefits of this new partnership unfold.

Carolynne Schloeder
Director of Mobile Programs, Wikimedia Foundation


Airtel Wikipedia Zero partnership to pilot Wikipedia via text

Today Airtel and the Wikimedia Foundation announced a partnership to launch Wikipedia Zero, an initiative to provide free access to Wikipedia on mobile phones. This partnership with Airtel will help provide Wikipedia access to 70 million new users in sub-saharan Africa, starting in Kenya.

One exciting aspect of this partnership is that we are reaching a group of people we’ve never been able to reach before: mobile phone customers who don’t have internet access.

Throughout most of the developing world, data-enabled smartphones are the exception, not the rule. That means billions of people currently cannot see Wikipedia on their phones. Which phones? Low-cost basic phones (usually called feature phones or candy-bar phones). Phones like this:

So the challenge is, how do we reach the billions of people in the world who aren’t on the internet?

With text messaging. Even phones like these can send and receive text messages.

So for the first time, we are testing a service to allow access to Wikipedia articles via text message. It can work with any phone, even the most basic feature phone. You don’t even need an application.

How does Wikipedia via text work? A search is started in the same way people already use their phone to check their balance or add airtime. To search for a Wikipedia article through the Airtel partnership, a subscriber simply dials *515# on their phone, and they’ll get a text message inviting them to search Wikipedia. The subscriber enters a topic (like ‘Cheetah’) in the same manner they would send a text message.

Speaking about free knowledge and the law at Yale ISP

Yale Law School Library

Yesterday, I presented an Ideas Lunch talk hosted by the Information Society Project at Yale Law School (Yale ISP). The Yale ISP was formed in 1997 to study how law and society are affected by new technologies and the Internet. The project is “guided by the values of democracy, development, and civil liberties.” I spoke about my work at the Wikimedia Foundation to promote the free knowledge movement to a group of students, faculty, and fellows at Yale ISP.

The talk focused on some of the unique challenges that our legal team faces in protecting the decentralized Wikimedia projects. In my work managing the Wikimedia trademark portfolio, I constantly think about creative solutions to reconcile the requirements of trademark law with the open and collaborative nature of our movement. We are currently developing a trademark policy together with our community through a series of community consultations. The purpose of the trademark policy is to allow community members to easily use the Wikimedia marks to promote our mission while protecting the marks from abuse by others. This is no easy feat as trademark policies are usually written to broadly restrict use of marks. Attorneys typically only consider the input of a few key staff when formulating policies of this sort. In stark contrast, we are collaborating with many different community members in an open process to develop a policy that is intended to serve the needs of the entire community. We also write the policy to be particularly user-friendly, applying readability indices to make sure that we avoid legalese and express ourselves clearly. This weekend, we also held two workshops at Stanford Institute of Design and the Embassy Network with legal design researchers to think about how we can better visualize the policy to make it more intuitive.[1]


Umniah first to launch Wikipedia Zero in Jordan

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In English

“Wikipedia Zero – Umniah” by Pshegubj, under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, from Wikimedia Commons

Umniah is the latest mobile operator to join the Wikipedia Zero free knowledge movement, and our first partner to launch in Jordan. Now Umniah’s 2.7 million mobile subscribers can access Wikipedia in Arabic and English free of data charges.

Nart Abdullah, Senior Value Added Services Officer at Umniah, came to us after hearing about Wikipedia Zero in the news. Umniah has a history of initiatives to reduce the digital gap, and Wikipedia Zero is in line with their values of community and inclusivity. According to CEO Ihab Hinnawi, Umniah is happy to provide free access to Wikipedia as “an important gateway to helping educate members of society, specifically ones facing financial burdens.” (Press release)

I recently joined the Wikimedia Foundation as Director of Mobile Programs, and Umniah is the first mobile operator I helped launch. I’m impressed with the way the Umniah team has embraced the program. They did a teaser campaign on their Facebook page asking general trivia questions leading up to the Wikipedia Zero announcement. That simple campaign captures the essence of Wikipedia opening a world of knowledge at your fingertips. And they even made a video about the partnership.

I’m also impressed with the Wikipedia Zero team and honored to be a part of it. We have a small and very talented group of people who work hard on implementations and infrastructure. We’re scaling our efforts to meet the growing commitments from mobile operators. So far we’ve rolled out in 19 countries, and we have agreements with carriers to serve over half a billion people.

Thanks again to Umniah, and welcome to the free knowledge movement. We’re glad you’re here (and I’m really glad to be here, too).

Carolynne Schloeder
Director of Mobile Programs, Wikimedia Foundation



Aircel partnership brings Wikipedia Zero to India

Wikipedia Zero is now available in India

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 .[1]  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 .[2]

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.

Amit Kapoor
Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation


  1. From, June 2013: Hindi Wikipedia page views (2.1M mobile /9.5M all); Wikipedia worldwide (3,672M mobile/21,229M all)
  2. A phone or browser must have the capability to render an Indic font in order to access non-English versions.


A beautiful movement for free access to Wikipedia is growing from a slum in South Africa

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Español 7% • English 100%


Joe Slovo Park (Cape Town, South Africa) as seen from the entrance to Sinenjongo High School.

Joe Slovo Park is a slum.

Mass unemployment. Drunkenness and drug addiction. Gangs. Teenage pregnancy. Tuberculosis. HIV/AIDS. Single room shacks that house five people. Illegal power connections. Lots of children without shoes. It’s a shantytown made up of whatever materials people can scrape together. It’s overcrowded and dirty. You have to know people to be safe.

In the middle of this place there is a high school made of used shipping containers and prefab buildings where students from the area come to study and learn. A class of students at the school has a simple request: they want free access to Wikipedia from their mobile phones so that they can do their homework. They started a campaign on Facebook for “Free Access to Wikipedia from Cellphones” and wrote an open letter to all the telecoms in the country:


Kul Wadhwa speaking at 0:55:05 about a news article about the class at Sinenjongo High School.

The Grade 11A Class who penned the open letter for free access to Wikipedia on their cellphones, (photographed in February 2013 as the 12A class).

A cellphone repair shop built from a shipping container in Joe Slovo Park. The store is across the street from the school.

Children in Joe Slovo Park, photographed next to computer and cellphone repair stores.

A small internet services store in Joe Slovo Park.

Pam Robertson, Grade 12A maths and science teacher at Sinenjongo High School.

Here I am on a photo walk through Joe Slovo Park with the 12A class.


I had given out Wikipedia stickers to the learners earlier in the week and when I came to Ntsika’s house, I saw that he had put the sticker on his refrigerator. I asked him why he did that.

Myself, Charlene Music and Oarabile Mudongo setting up cameras in one of the two computer labs at Sinenjongo High School.

Charlene Music explaining to Sinako (one of the learners) how to shoot a documentary.


A sample from a Cape Town radio interview between Kieno Kammies and Pam Robertson, Maths and Science teacher at Sinenjongo High School about her class and their campaign for free access to Wikipedia on their cellphones.

Open letter to Cell C, MTN, Vodacom and 8ta

We are learners in a Grade 11 class at Sinenjongo High School, Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, Cape Town. We recently heard that in some other African countries like Kenya and Uganda certain cell phone providers are offering their customers free access to Wikipedia.

We think this is a wonderful idea and would really like to encourage you also to make the same offer here in South Africa. It would be totally amazing to be able to access information on our cell phones which would be affordable to us.

Our school does not have a library at all so when we need to do research we have to walk a long way to the local library. When we get there we have to wait in a queue to use the one or two computers which have the internet. At school we do have 25 computers but we struggle to get to use them because they are mainly for the learners who do CAT (Computer Application Technology) as a subject. Going to an internet cafe is also not an easy option because you have to pay per half hour.

90% of us have cell phones but it is expensive for us to buy airtime so if we could get free access to Wikipedia it would make a huge difference to us.

Normally when we do research Wikipedia is one of the best sites for us to use and so we go straight to it. The information there is clear, updated and there is information on just about every topic.

Our education system needs help and having access to Wikipedia would make a very positive difference. Just think of the boost that it will give us as students and to the whole education system of South Africa.

From Sinombongo, Sinako, Busisiwe, Ntswaki, Bomkazi, Lindokuhle, Ntsika, Patrick, Ndumiso, Sinazo, Bathandwa, Nokuthembela, Lutho, Mandlilakhe, Zingisile, Aviwe, Nezisa, Ncumisa, Nokubonga, Pheliwe, Zama, Unathi, Malixole and Ntombozuko.

The letter made headlines in the South African press, and my colleague Kul Wadhwa, who manages the Wikipedia Zero program at the Wikimedia Foundation, shared the news with me. I’m always looking for stories to tell about Wikipedia and this was the first grassroots effort (that I know of) that anyone made to get this kind of access to Wikipedia.

Three months ago, I didn’t know anything about this school and had never been to Africa. Being a Wikipedian at heart, I started a page for the school thinking that maybe the page might grow and help me with my research. I then got ahold of Pam Robertson (one of the teachers) at the school via the Facebook campaign page. I asked if I could ask her pupils a few questions (I later learned that the ‘learners,’ as they call themselves, were excited that someone in America even read their letter). I asked her pupils three things: Who are you? Where are you from? What does Wikipedia mean to you?

Here are a few quotes from emails they sent me:

…I attend school at Sinenjongo high school one of the public school in Cape Town. If I can draw you a picture of school, it can look as follows; my school is made of prefabs, it is surrounded by many shacks, there rubbish dump in front of our school, About 15 classes,1 science lab, 2 computer labs, very tiny garden, no playing fields. Nonetheless our school is one the schools that is obtaining good matric results, this shows that we have potentials. After school I want to have a job that i will earn good money so that I can provide for family and live my life to the fullest-not forgetting about giving back to my community. I want to be a role model. Wikipedia means the world. Wikipedia is up dated, it has valid information and it can link you to other websites. We also use it for our projects. If we can get wikipedia free our lives can be easy.

Nezisa Mdludlu

I am a 17 year old boy staying with a single mother, sister and a brother not forgetting my cousin and her child. We stay in a small shack having no one working surviving with only R1100 supporting grant in each and every month…When I pass my grade 12 I want to do Bsc Degree in Geology and work here at South Africa. Wikipedia can be very useful to me in such a way that when I am doing my assignments and projects I just go to wikipedia and it provide every information I need. Every term my marks are improving because of the information that I get on Wikipedia.


…I would love studying something like Actuarial Science, Astronomy or Medicine. Big complicated numbers and the amazing theories of the birth and the current state of universe fascinate me a lot.


…my brother was shot in 2005… Wikipedia is one of the most sites I use to search for information for my career it help of use for project because the isn’t facilities at school and the local library is to far that’s why it’s much easier to use our phones for the internet. But it costs us a lot because we have to stay on the internet for hours and most of the airtime is used and sometimes we save our pocket money to buy airtime. So by having free internet on our phones is easy and saves time.


…In my community we don’t have places where we can express our careers…


…As much as we do not have adequate facilities at my school we are determined, proud pupils in the way we perform. The current matric results were rating 94% and we are one of the most improving schools in the Western Cape…


…I live with my mother and my three brothers; we stay in a one roomed house…


…Learning conditions are poor because we lack sources for over time studies like research, internet for finding new things that are being established now. I would like to be a surgeon, study medicine at university and help my family, provide the love for my mother that she is giving me right now…


…The minute i heard about Wikipedia zero by Mr Piet Strieker I became very interested and would be very happy to access it from my cellphone. Without Wikipedia my schoolwork and my assignments are worth no marks.


After about the second paragraph, I had tears running down my face. I read pages and pages of quotes like these, describing similar circumstances, each from a different point of view.

I did some more research and found that the principal of the school had made a TED presentation about how she had turned Sinenjongo High School around from a joke of a school that was going to be closed and made it one that gets a 98 percent graduation rate. She did this in 2 years. In the video she talked about how she made the school work:

True transparency and trust…I was open in every decision, every advice from anyone…it was easy for me to gain their trust… People believe in transparency and also people believe in honesty and openness….Everyone is going to be owning this school, it belongs to all of us, not only me.

Malinga Nopote