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February 25, 2013

Wikipedia Zero is Winner of Knight News Challenge Event

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

While many of us (if not most) take broadband media access for granted, this isn’t the case in the developing world. Cell phones are a common sight over most of the world, but they’re often used simply for telephone calls, since their owners are unlikely to be able to afford pricey (and escalating) data charges.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit that operates Wikipedia, believes this is an unfair balance of power. While many in the west can take advantage of Wikipedia to look up a quick fact or educate ourselves more in depth on pretty much any topic we can think of, this convenience is out of reach for much of the developing world.

To combat this digital divide, the Wikipedia Foundation established Wikipedia Zero in 2011, a program that partners with mobile operators to give their mobile users free-of-charge access to Wikipedia and its growing trove of 24 million articles, according to a blog post on the Knight blog.

In 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation signed Wikipedia Zero partnerships with three mobile operators, which is bringing free Wikipedia access to 230 million mobile users in 31 countries. In the countries where Wikipedia Zero has already been deployed, Wikipedia readership of local, non-English languages grew upwards of 400 percent in six months.

The philanthropic organization, the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation has announced that Wikipedia Zero is a winner of the Knight News Challenge grant, designed to accelerate media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information, and a series of exciting new developments is on the horizon.

The Challenge funds will assist Wikipedia Zero in speeding the development of the software that lets a simple feature phone – which many (if not most) people in developing nations possess – connect easily to Wikipedia’s mobile site, augmenting the development of the engineering that, on Wikipedia, makes hundreds of native languages readable from mobile devices.

This pioneers a program to give mobile users USSD & SMS access to Wikipedia, said the organization.

Edited by Braden Becker
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