The Wikipedia Zero logo
Wikipedia Zero is a project by the Wikimedia Foundation to provide Wikipedia free of charge on mobile phones via zero-rating, particularly in developing markets. The program was launched in 2012, and won a 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for activism. The objective of the program is to increase access to free knowledge: in particular without data-usage cost. With 68 operators in over 52 countries, it is estimated over 309 million people have access to Wikipedia Zero.
Below is a selective history of launches. For a complete list of participating mobile networks and launch dates, see Wikimedia Foundation: mobile network partners.
- May 2012: Malaysia, with Digi Telecommunications
- July 26, 2012: Kenya, with Orange S.A.
- October 2012: Thailand, with dtac; Saudi Arabia with Saudi Telecom Company
- May 2013: Pakistan, with Mobilink
- June 2013: Sri Lanka, with Dialog Axiata
- October 2013: Jordan, with Umniah; Bangladesh, with Banglalink
- April 2014: Kosovo, on the IPKO network
- May 2014: Nepal, with Ncell and in Kyrgyzstan with Beeline
- May 2014: Nigeria, with Airtel Nigeria 
- October 2014: Ukraine, with Kyivstar
- December 2014: Ghana, with MTN Ghana
- September 2014: Myanmar, with Telenor
- December 2014: Angola, with Unitel S.A.
- January 2015: Algeria, with Djezzy 
Participating mobile networksEdit
Reception and impactEdit
The Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones of Chile ruled that zero-rating services like Wikipedia Zero, Facebook Zero, and Google Free Zone, that subsidize mobile data usage, violate net neutrality laws and had to end the practice by June 1, 2014. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said, "Whilst we appreciate the intent behind efforts such as Wikipedia Zero, ultimately zero rated services are a dangerous compromise." Accessnow.org has been more critical, saying, "Wikimedia has always been a champion for open access to information, but it’s crucial to call out zero-rating programs for what they are: Myopic deals that do great damage to the future of the open internet." The Wikimedia Foundation's Gayle Karen Young defended the program to the Washington Post, saying, "We have a complicated relationship to net neutrality. We believe in net neutrality in America," while adding that Wikipedia Zero required a different perspective in other countries: "Partnering with telecom companies in the near term, it blurs the net neutrality line in those areas. It fulfills our overall mission, though, which is providing free knowledge."
Hilary Heuler argues that "for many, zero-rated programs would limit online access to the 'walled gardens' offered by the web heavyweights. For millions of users, Facebook and Wikipedia would be synonymous with 'internet'." In 2015, researchers evaluating how the similar program Facebook Zero shapes ICT use in the developing world found that 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the Internet. 65% of Nigerians, and 61% of Indonesians agree with the statement that "Facebook is the Internet" compared with only 5% in the US.
An article in Vice magazine notes that the free access via Wikipedia Zero made Wikipedia a preferred way for its users in Bangladesh and elsewhere to share copyrighted material. This caused problems at Wikipedia (where uploading copyrighted media is discouraged) but the article is deeply critical of the Wikipedia Zero project, arguing that because "they can't afford access to YouTube and the rest of the internet, Wikipedia has become the internet for lots of Bangladeshis [and] a bunch of more-or-less random editors who happen to want to be the piracy police are dictating the means of access for an entire population of people."
- Alliance for Affordable Internet
- Distance learning
- Facebook Zero
- Twitter Zero
- Google Free Zone
- Net neutrality
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- Wikipedia Zero at the Wikimedia Foundation
- Official website
- Wikimedia blog posts about Wikipedia Zero
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