Archive:Press releases/Airtel joins Wikipedia Zero partnership with pilot in Kenya

    From the Wikimedia Foundation Governance Wiki

    Airtel Partners With Wikimedia Foundation to Bring Free Access to Wikipedia to 70 Million People in 17 Countries

    Partnership will introduce innovative ways to access Wikipedia on mobile devices in Sub-Saharan Africa

    • Airtel customers to access multilingual content on Wikipedia mobile site free of data charges
    • First-of-its-kind pilot initiative in Africa will provide free access to Wikipedia via text messages (SMS and USSD)

    Nairobi, Kenya and San Francisco, California, October 24, 2013 – Airtel, and the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia, today announced a strategic partnership to provide Airtel’s customers access to the knowledge and information available on Wikipedia through their mobile phones free of data charges.

    This partnership is part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Zero program, which focuses on reaching the billions of people around the world whose primary opportunity to access the internet is via a mobile device. The partnership between Airtel and the Wikimedia Foundation will help provide Wikipedia to 70 million new users in the region, starting in Kenya.

    Airtel customers with Internet-enabled handsets can now access the Wikipedia mobile site on their mobile browsers without incurring data charges by going to

    For customers who do not have Internet-enabled handsets, Airtel will offer Wikipedia by text message as a pilot program in Kenya. This unique service will allow customers to search Wikipedia using a plain text menu, without the need for a mobile browser. The service, available for GSM subscribers, utilizes USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) technology and allows users to dial *515# to search Wikipedia and receive article summaries via SMS.

    “We are thrilled that Airtel has joined us in removing two major barriers to accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. Not only are we making it freely available on the mobile web but we are are also launching our first Wikipedia via text service that will allow people without data enabled phones to access Wikipedia,” said Kul Takanao Wadhwa, Head of Mobile, Wikimedia Foundation. “Improving access to the Wikimedia projects in Sub-Saharan Africa is a strategic priority for the Wikimedia Foundation and this partnership is another step forward in our mission to enable everyone on the planet to access free knowledge.”

    Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Africa said “Airtel is committed to using its infrastructure to expand knowledge across the countries that it operates in. Due to the fact that most of the population has access to a cell phone, it is the best way to reach out and educate our communities. We will offer this service free of charge to our customers to enable access to all.”

    About Bharti Airtel

    Bharti Airtel Limited is a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, the company ranks amongst the top 4 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers. In India, the company's product offerings include 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services, mobile commerce, fixed line services, high speed DSL broadband, IPTV, DTH, enterprise services including national & international long distance services to carriers. In the rest of the geographies, it offers 2G, 3G wireless services and mobile commerce. Bharti Airtel had over 276 million customers across its operations at the end of August 2013. To learn more, please visit

    Airtel Africa press contact
    Michael Okwiri
    Vice President, Corporate Communications,
    Airtel Africa
    About the Wikimedia Foundation

    The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation receive 500 million unique visitors per month, making them the fifth-most popular web property world-wide (comScore, August 2013). Available in 287 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 29 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is an audited, 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.

    Wikimedia Foundation press contact
    Matthew Roth
    Global Communications Manager
    Wikimedia Foundation
    Tel. +1 415-839-6885 x6635