Ghana’s leading mobile operator, MTN, with the support of the Ministry of Education, has become the country’s first mobile operator to offer free access to Wikipedia as part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s global Wikipedia Zero initiative. The service enables MTN customers to access all the free knowledge on Wikipedia without data charges.
As part of its vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to its customers, MTN is proactively providing new ways for customers to benefit from the digital revolution. By participating in the Wikipedia Zero initiative, MTN is giving subscribers the ability to access the free knowledge available from Wikipedia without worrying about data charges.
Operated by the not-for-profit organization Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia is the largest collection of free knowledge ever assembled. Across its 287 language versions Wikipedia contains more than 33.5 million articles, attracting nearly half a billion unique visitors every month and more than 20 billion monthly page views, actively edited every month by about 80,000 volunteers dedicated to making knowledge free.
Commenting on the service, the Chief Marketing Officer of MTN, Mr. Rahul De, noted that Wikipedia Zero will provide opportunity for children, students and professionals to learn more and enhance their knowledge. Mr. De stated that, “Wikipedia Zero removes the data cost barrier for our customers to access educational material.”
According to data from UN ICT agency International Telecom Union (ITU), only 4.27% of Ghana’s population was using the Internet in 2008. By 2011 that figure had increased to 14.11%, about 24 million people. Mobile cellular subscriptions in Ghana increased from 130,045 in 2000 to 17,436,949 in 2010.
The number of mobile phone users in Ghana also rose to 29,990,581 at the end of October 2014 according to the regulator National Communications Authority (NCA). This rapid growth represents a significant opportunity for mobile subscribers in Ghana to retrieve information from Wikipedia. Additionally, it presents an opportunity to increase the volume of content on Wikipedia about the country that will not be only relevant to Africans but also to the world.
Wikimedia Ghana User Group (WMGUG), a recognized Wikimedia Foundation User Group, is hugely excited about this opportunity to share Ghana with the world and the world with Ghana. Rexford Nkansah, Team Lead of the WMGUG said:
“Providing access to Wikipedia for free will be a great avenue to share the benefits of Wikipedia with the people of Ghana. Wikimedia survives purely on volunteerism and in a country like Ghana where it is sometimes difficult to afford data for mobile, convincing people to join the editing community through mobile at zero charge will not be as difficult as it presently is.”
Rexford Nkansah went on to say: “This is a huge leap forward for efforts being made by the WMGUG to enhance the global encyclopedia and we hope the success rate leaves a positive impact on all parties involved. It is, thus, our part to play as individuals to come together and leverage the opportunity to learn and improve our lives and that of others. We hope that with the Ministry of Education’s support, the reach of this service will be expanded and complemented with educational materials and resources that will benefit the Ghanaian youth through Wikipedia Zero.”
The introduction of Wikipedia Zero will also enable the many educational institutions in Ghana to tap into the vast information available on Wikipedia for education and research. Students, who do not have enough funds to access the Internet regularly will not be barred from gaining knowledge from Wikipedia.
“Currently Wikipedia in Ghana has nearly 10 million page views a month, and we hope that this collaboration with MTN Ghana will give this figure a huge boost. We are passionate about ensuring people not to only have access to accurate and relevant information, but that they can become knowledge creators themselves.” said Carolynne Schloeder, head of global partnerships with the Wikimedia Foundation.
Wikipedia is available on www.wikipedia.org on any Internet-enabled device. The Ministry of Education commended MTN for raising the bar in free access to quality online educational content for students and professionals across the country. This will go a long way to close the knowledge gap between students in Ghana and those from the developed world.