Wikipedia Zero will accelerate Wikipedia in Nepal

Posted: May 22, 2014 in Published Articles
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Courtesy: Wikimedia Blog (blog.wikimedia.org)

This is a guest post from Nepali Wikipedian Ganesh Paudel and does not necessarily express the views of the Wikimedia Foundation. 

On May 6th mobile operator NCELL announced the launch ofWikipedia Zero in Nepal. Wikipedia Zero is expected to be a very useful service in Nepal, where over 90% of internet users access the internet using their mobile phones. The service will provide Nepalese users in very remote areas access to Wikipedia – free of cost. The local Wikipedia community, Wikipedia Education Program leaders, Wiki Poject Med and all volunteer contributors are excited by the news.

The Wikipedia Zero team and local Wikimedians are communicating with Nepal Telecom, the government owned mobile operator company, to encourage them to start this service as well. Throughout the years, Wikipedia has been established as an increasingly effective educational tool. There will surely be an acceleration in use and expansion of Wikipedia after launching Wikipedia Zero in Nepal. Currently, five languages have pages that serve the Nepal Wikipedia community – Nepali, Newari, Bhojpuri, Pali and Sanskrit. Ten other language Wikipedia pages are in test phases. This service will broaden the path to develop local content in all 123 languages spoken in Nepal.

So what exactly is Wikipedia Zero? Wikipedia Zero is a free browsing service that allows users to surf Wikipedia pages without incurring data charges. The name refers to the zero cost of using the service. The Wikimedia Foundation provides this service in collaboration with mobile operators. If the user clicks on an external link, a message will warn them that ‘this service is chargeable’ to ensure that accidental data charges are not acquired.

A girl editing Miss Nepal article in Nepali Wikipedia.

In the case of Nepal, NCELL has made it clear that in addition to surfing Wikipedia articles, users will also be able to edit existing pages. This is great news for active Wikipedia contributors largely to those who use their mobile phones to edit. Hopefully, this feature will also encourage other users to write articles in Nepali, and other Wikipedia pages. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia with probably the highest quantity of articles. As the largest encyclopedia, Wikipedia is becoming the most popular online reference. Coming in at number five, Wikipedia ranks within the most viewed webpages in the world.

Ram Prasad Joshi, Nepali Wikipedia Sysop has made over 6,000 edits using only his mobile phone.

Wikipedia Zero was started in 2012, focusing on countries with the least access to the internet. It was first launched in Uganda in April 2012. Now, the service has been launched in various countries in Asia and Africa. Nepal is the latest country to join Wikipedia Zero. Despite this good news, there are still challenges ahead. Many users in Nepal are largely limited to mobile phones when accessing the internet, since broadband service is not available everywhere. These people can cure their thirst for knowledge by accessing the online encyclopedia via their phone and the Wikipedia Zero partnership. But very few people can read and understand English text. To read Nepali texts they will need a device that supports Devanagari text. Most of the people do not have mobile devices that support the local text. It may take a couple of years to witness the true impact of Zero, considering these current limitations.

There is a proverb that says ‘There may be delay, but no darkness in the door of God.’ The availability of such services encourage people to chase the advancement of time. The successful implementation of Wikipedia Zero depends upon the Mobile operators. Launching the service through one sole operator is not enough. An operator can only provide services to those subscribed to that company, this means that not all consumers gets the service. If all major operators provide this service, then most citizens will experience the great advantage of being able to access Wikipedia. All operators must initiate this service, only then will it be considered a successful implementation of the world’s largest encyclopedia in Nepal, one that will surely raise the education levels of many Nepalese citizens.

Ganesh Paudel, user:Ganesh Paudel, gpaudel@gmail.com

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