Wikimedia Foundation has announced that their free-to-access on mobile networks (in developing countries) version, Wikipedia Zero, will be discontinued in 2018. According to the organization, the main issue was low awareness of Wikipedia outside of North America and Europe, which likely led to low access to the platform.
Wikipedia Zero was launched in 2012 by the Wikimedia Foundation to allow those, in developing countries, who would find it difficult to access the standard version of Wikipedia due to high data costs.
Wikipedia Zero countries as of 6 September 2016. | Wikipedia
"In the program’s six-year tenure, we have partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges. Since 2016, we have seen a significant drop off in adoption and interest in the program. This may be due, in part, to the rapidly shifting mobile industry, as well as changes in mobile data costs. At this same time, we conducted extensive research to better understand the full spectrum of barriers to accessing and participating in Wikipedia," reads a statement by the Wikimedia Foundation announced the pending discontinuation of Wikipedia Zero.
The service was not entirely well received by some regulator in developing countries. Given that essentially Wikipedia Zero was zero rated on mobile carriers, it raised concerns about net neutrality.
"In Nigeria, we partnered with Nigerian community members and Nollywood stars to introduce more than 15 million people to Wikipedia and how it works. These successes have given us several ideas for where we may take our partnership work next, and over the coming year, we will explore other ways we can leverage the findings from our research and the Wikipedia Zero program to direct future work with partners," the organization said in a statement.
The Wikimedia Foundation has hinted that it is looking at various options for partnerships, especially in developing countries where access to information can be costly, despite mobile data costs dropping.
Cover image credit: Nelson Mandela Page in Cape Town, South Africa. } Wikimedia Foundation