Wikipedia Launches Program in Africa to Provide Access to Content via TextsWith the ongoing buzz of tech startups, new social media channels, and sustainable technology, it may be hard for some people to believe that there are still regions of the world where the Internet is an emerging aspect of life. Wikipedia is among the few socially conscious Internet companies that is looking to increase access to the web and they plan on doing so through a new project called Wikipedia Zero. The technology will provide basic featured phones (or non-Smartphone) owners to be able to look up and access Wikipedia content via text messages. The three month-pilot, hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, is in partnership with telecoms company Airtel and Praekelt Foundation, a South African mobile technologies nonprofit organization. Starting in Kenya, the Wikimedia Foundation hopes to provide 70 million new users in sub-Saharan Africa with access to Wikipedia.

“From the lessons we learn from this pilot, we hope to eventually make this service widely available to reach the billions of people who have mobile phones, but cannot afford access to the Internet,” Dan Foy,  Wikimedia foundation technical partner manager told Salon magazine.

How would one use the service? Simple. When a user dials *515# on their phone, they will receive a text that will prompt them to enter a search term through a normal text. Then, it will prompt users to choose specific entry and subtopic information to read about before sending over an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry. To get more info, users press “1”.

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