Campaign to get free access to Wikipedia on phones goes global

Remember the group of high school learners who launched a petition through the Wikimedia Foundation to get free access to Wikipedia in South Africa to help them with their school work?

The campaign enjoyed quite a bit of success after MTN responded, offering all its users free access to Wikipedia.

But now there’s a global petition to make Wikipedia free across the globe, calling on mobile networks to give users data-free access to the information site.

“In 2013, we read an open letter from a high school class that wanted free access to Wikipedia on their cellphones so that they could do their homework. Regrettably, their story could have come from anywhere — it illustrates just how much the world needs access to Wikipedia,” reads the Wikimedia Foundation’s Zero campaign petition.

“Roughly 6 out of every 7 people today have access to a cellular phone, however despite Wikipedia’s free license, the cost of data is so expensive for most people that they simply can’t afford to access Wikipedia. That’s why the Wikimedia Foundation has been working with cellular phone providers to waive data charges for accessing Wikipedia.” 

The petition also features a short YouTube documentary starring some of the Sinenjingo High School learners telling their stories of daily life, the challenges they face in their community, and how free access to Wikipedia is helping them with their school projects

Access to Wikipedia is currently free in a number of countries in Africa including Kenya and Uganda – Orange Kenya and Orange Uganda started offering free Wikipedia access in 2012, and the Praekelt Foundation partnered with the Wikimedia Foundation (and Airtel Kenya) to introduce free access to the site using Praekelt’s Vumi USSD and SMS technology.

So far the petition has 136 signatures. Watch the Knowledge for Everyone short documentary below:

[Source – Wikimedia Foundation, Image – YouTube]


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