The mobile web is growing at a phenomenal pace. According to research, it will outpace the desktop internet web in 2014, when approximately 1.7 billion users will access the net on their mobile phone, many of them from the Global South, compared to 1.65 billion desktop web users. As part of our mission to provide free knowledge to everyone, we are committed to enhancing our mobile platform, and have made several improvements to the reading user experience. But most importantly, we recently launched a partnership with Orange to provide Wikipedia at no data cost to mobile readers in Africa and the Middle East.
To understand our current Wikipedia mobile users across different geographies and prioritize product features, we conducted a survey of Wikipedia mobile readers. You can read more about its methodology on Meta wiki.
Looking at the data from the survey, there is a strong case to be made for making Wikipedia accessible without data charges on mobile devices. Over half of Wikipedia mobile readers (52 percent) said that having Wikipedia free for their mobile data plans would increase their Wikipedia usage. Moreover, 28 percent indicated that it would increase their likelihood to buy from that mobile provider. Another 16 percent said that they would be willing to switch their mobile providers to have free Wikipedia access.
Looking globally, we found that Wikipedia readers in the Global South, specifically in Brazil, Latin America and MENA, indicated that they would use Wikipedia more often if no data costs were accrued, and even suggested this as a key motivating factor for switching to or considering alternative service providers.
We found high interest in Wikipedia access without data charges despite a majority of readers (54 percent) stating that their mobile data plan is not a significant monthly expense for their household. But it should be noted that the data is based on current mobile readers, and doesn’t survey those who don’t have current mobile Wikipedia access, some of whom might not have access to the mobile web due to high cost. Only 14 percent of respondents stated that their data plan was either a significant expense with their household actively managing usage, or too expensive leading to issues of affordability. In addition, about 32 percent stated that it was a significant expense, but that they were not concerned about it.