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