Bringing Wikipedia To More Users, One Text Message At A Time
The company has begun a three-month trial of Wikipedia Zero in Kenya. It works exclusively via SMS and is designed to reach the millions of people who have mobile phones but no Internet access.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
This month Wikipedia began a pilot of a new service, Wikipedia Zero, that sends articles to mobile phones via text message. The trial is taking place in Kenya, where the company is partnering with mobile provider Airtel, and will last for three months. To access the service, the user only has to dial *515# to receive a text prompting them to look for articles. Each article is divided into easy-to-read, text-message-sized chunks.
What's the Big Idea?
On the Wikimedia Foundation blog, executive Dan Foy puts it simply: "Throughout most of the developing world, data-enabled smartphones are the exception, not the rule. That means billions of people currently cannot see Wikipedia on their phones." Africa in particular has seen an explosion of feature phone usage in recent years, and in some ways the industry is more advanced there than elsewhere, as companies like Wikipedia and Facebook look for new ways to work within the existing technology infrastructure. While HumanIPO editor Tom Jackson says Wikipedia Zero will be welcomed, he also hopes "it comes with the same warnings that European and American kids are given about taking Wikipedia at face value!"
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