Orange offers Africans free access to Wikipedia

Mobile network to provide free access to online encyclopaedia in 20 African and Middle East countries.

Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation today announced a major partnership designed to make knowledge more easily available to 70 million Orange mobile customers throughout Africa and the Middle East.

In the first partnership of its kind for Wikipedia, Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation will provide customers in both remote and urban areas of AMEA with access to Wikipedia without adding on data charges.

In 2009, Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation formed the world’s first mobile and Internet partnership to expand the reach of Wikimedia’s projects through channels on Orange mobile and web portals in Europe.

This new partnership will be gradually launched throughout 2012 across 20 African and Middle Eastern countries where Orange operates, with the first markets launching early in the year. The initiative is part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s mobile strategy that aims to reach the billions of people around the world who access the internet solely through mobile devices.

Any customer with an Orange SIM and mobile internet enabled phone will be able to access the Wikipedia site either through their browser or an Orange widget. They can access the Wikipedia encyclopaedia services for as many times as they like at no extra charge as long as they stay within Wikipedia’s pages.

“Wikipedia is an important service, a public good – and so we want people to be able to access it for free, regardless of what device they’re using,” said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn’t. We’re thrilled to be Orange’s partner in this important endeavour.”

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Marc Rennard, Group Executive Vice President, Africa, Middle East and Asia at Orange, commented, “In countries where access to information is not always readily available, we are making it simple and easy for our customers to use the world’s most comprehensive online encyclopaedia. It is the first partnership of this kind in the world where we are enabling customers to access Wikipedia without incurring any data charges; and shows Orange’s ability, once again, to innovate in Africa and the Middle East, and bring more value to our customers.”

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