Monday, the Wikimedia Foundation announced Axiata Group Berhad as the newest partner in the Wikipedia Zero program. Through this partnership, Axiata will offer Wikipedia on mobile devices free of data charges to its customers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In three of the countries (Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka) this will be the first implementation of Wikipedia Zero.
In many countries within Asia and throughout the developing world, the barriers to accessing Wikipedia can be substantial. For example, in Cambodia, where there is an active Wikipedia editor community, mobile penetration is over 100 percent, but gross national income per capita is still less than $1,000 a year. Soon, however, anyone in Cambodia with a Smart Axiata SIM card and browser-enabled phone will be able to access Wikipedia Zero without cost being an issue.
This announcement comes soon after other exciting news for Wikipedia Zero, including a partnership with Vimpelcom, a grant from the Knight Foundation, and a SXSW Interactive Award for activism. As Kul Wadhwa wrote in last week’s blog post, Wikipedia Zero is “activism” because the program advocates a paradigm shift to a world where free access to knowledge is a fundamental human right.
Reducing barriers, really, is what Wikipedia is all about. An open-source, collaborative encyclopedia, compiled exclusively by a volunteer community, challenges the idea that information must be commodified. The editor community, in overcoming that barrier, has created over 25 million articles since Wikipedia was started in 2001. Past surveys demonstrate that the most common motivation volunteers express for editing Wikipedia is that they like the idea of sharing knowledge.
They want to reduce the gap between the information they have and someone else’s ability to benefit from it. However, even once that information is available, many potential readers run into economic and technical impediments that prevent access. Wikipedia Zero partner organizations have taken a bold step, like Axiata has today, to reduce those.
We applaud Axiata and look forward to more mobile carriers partnering with us to bring free knowledge to every single person on the planet.
Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships