Thanks to a new partnership between Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Wikimedia, 25 million STC mobile customers in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait can now access Wikipedia free of charge — with zero data fees. This deal raises the total number of mobile users with free Wikipedia access to an impressive 230 million, as part of the Wikipedia Zero program; an initiative to bring free mobile Wikipedia access to developing countries.
Today’s announcement is extremely important, considering the massive amount of information that is now infinitely more accessible to millions of people in both arabic and english. Additionally, the decision reflects how key Wikimedia believes emerging, Arabic-speaking users will be for its future success, as part of a larger emphasis on everything mobile.
Wikimedia has already partnered with operators like Orange, Telenor, Digi and dtac to bring free access to countries like Uganda, Malaysia, Kenya and Thailand, although some of the partnerships only offer free access to the lighter-weight, text-only zero.wikipedia.org version. Lucky for STC’s 25 million customers, Wikimedia states that they specifically will have access to both m.wikipedia.org and zero.wikipedia.org.
According to Eng. Ibrahim Al Omar, Vice President for Personal Services:
One of the principles that STC adheres to is the commitment to spreading social awareness and the fostering of a knowledge-sharing culture that accomplishes the aspirations of all segments of our customer-base. Wikipedia Zero is considered an additional cornerstone that supports the continuous efforts of STC in the field of social awareness.
Wikimedia’s partnership is certainly an impressive development — one which could also benefit a number of other regions, even the US, as NY Daily News claims that just 50.4 percent of US mobile subscribers own smartphones.
Globally, we have a long way to go towards brining true accessibility to the Internet, but announcements like this can help move everyone forward.
Image credit: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / Getty Images