Archive:Press releases/Wikimedia community in Iraq partners with Asiacell to bring Wikipedia to nearly 12 million subscribers free of mobile data charges

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Wikimedia community in Iraq partners with Asiacell to bring Wikipedia to nearly 12 million subscribers free of mobile data charges

Mobile data fees waived for Asiacell customers in Iraq to access Wikipedia, a free collection of knowledge available in nearly 300 languages

(Barcelona, Spain) February 28th, 2017 – Today, Wikimedia community members in Iraq, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Asiacell, one of Iraq’s largest mobile operators, announced a new partnership to provide access to Wikipedia free of mobile data charges to Asiacell’s nearly 12 million subscribers in Iraq. The partnership was announced today at a press event hosted by Ooredoo during Mobile World Congress 2017.

The partnership, developed in large part by Iraqi volunteer editor and Asiacell employee, Sarmad Saeed Yaseen, marks the first Wikipedia Zero program in Iraq. The program, overseen by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, addresses one of the greatest barriers to internet access globally: affordability. In a recent phone survey in Iraq led by the Wikimedia Foundation, roughly 80% of surveyed participants reported that mobile data costs limited their use of the internet. About 33% of participants also reported rarely or never being able to find online content in their preferred language.

Through the Wikipedia Zero program, mobile data fees are waived for subscribers of participating mobile operators so that they may read and edit Wikipedia without using any of their mobile data.

Sarmad, who is part of a community of local volunteer Wikipedia editors in Iraq, started the partnership to extend access to knowledge in his home country of Iraq. Together, he and his wife, Ravan Jaafar Altaie, have been active editors (or Wikipedians) since 2008.

“I've always believed that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness, so I decided to volunteer in Wikipedia to provide knowledge for free to my people in their own language,” said Sarmad Saeed Yaseen. “When I was first introduced to Wikipedia Zero, I felt right away that this could be the best thing ever to share free knowledge in my country and encourage the people of Iraq to contribute knowledge and share this with the world on Wikipedia.”

Wikipedia is an online collection of knowledge written by volunteer editors from every corner of the globe. Available in nearly 300 languages, Wikipedia is a place to learn about virtually any topic -- from ancient history to science to the arts -- in your local language, for free, and without advertising. Wikipedia editors use reliable sources to support information that is included in Wikipedia articles, so readers can explore the sources that verify the facts. Wikipedia is completely non-profit, independent, and maintained by everyday people around the world.

Wikipedia in Iraq is supported by a local community of volunteer editors in almost every major city of the country. In 2015, Sarmad and Ravan organized the first series of workshops in Erbil to teach Iraqi people how to edit Wikipedia. The workshops led to 600 new articles and more than 12,000 edits primarily to Arabic and Kurdish Wikipedia. In October 2015, this community launched the first formalized Wikimedia group from Iraq, the Iraqi Wikimedians user group (a formalized Wikimedia affiliate group that has been recognized by the global Wikimedia community of editors). Today, the majority of unique device visits to Wikipedia in Iraq come from mobile devices.

Worldwide, Wikipedia is recognized as an important learning resource, but it also offers a platform to share knowledge with the world. Edits from any country contribute to the world’s common knowledge repository, seen by hundreds of millions of people every month. This allows many to learn from what just a few people might otherwise know. As more voices contribute to Wikipedia, it becomes a better representation of the diverse cultures, history, people, viewpoints, and perspectives of our world.

“Asiacell believes that sharing knowledge is a way to enforce the interaction among human beings. We strongly believe in contributing in the global project of Wikipedia. Beside all the modern technologies that we offer, this partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation is one of the achievements that we are proud of. We will enable our 12 million subscriber base to have free access to Wikipedia, this will enable them to widen the scale of their knowledge and thus direct them towards a brighter future for themselves and for humanity,” said Zring Faruk, Chief Commercial Officer at Asiacell.

With this partnership, Asiacell customers will be able to edit Wikipedia without mobile data charges -- adding to and improving articles in their preferred language and sharing knowledge of Iraq’s rich cultural history, heritage, and its people with the rest of the world.

“Wikipedia is guided by a powerful vision: that every single person should be able to share in all of the world’s knowledge, for free and without restriction,” said Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “Sarmad, Ravan, and the Iraqi Wikimedians User Group have been passionate advocates of this vision in Iraq. They've nurtured the growth of Arabic and Kurdish Wikipedia for nearly a decade, and have built a vibrant community committed to sharing knowledge of Iraq and its heritage, people, and culture with the world. We are thrilled to have Asiacell join us as a partner in this journey.”

The Wikipedia Zero program is overseen by the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia and a number of other Wikimedia free knowledge websites. Since the program first began in 2012, Wikipedia Zero partnerships have taken place with 68 mobile operators in 52 countries.

About Asiacell

Asiacell is a leading provider of quality mobile telecommunications and data services in Iraq with a subscriber base of nearly 12 million customers as of December 1st 2016. Asiacell was the first mobile telecommunications provider in Iraq to achieve nationwide coverage, offering its services across all of Iraq’s 19 governorates including the national capital Baghdad and all other major Iraqi cities. Asiacell’s network covers 99.06% of the Iraqi population which makes its national coverage the widest among the mobile operators in Iraq.

About Wikipedia

Wikipedia is the world’s free knowledge resource. It is a collaborative creation that has been added to and edited by millions of people from around the globe since it was created in 2001: anyone can edit it, at any time. Wikipedia is offered in hundreds of languages containing more than 40 million articles. Wikipedia and its sister projects are collectively visited by more than a billion unique devices each month.

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports and operates Wikipedia and its sister projects. More than a billion unique devices access the Wikimedia sites each month. Roughly 70,000 people edit Wikipedia and its sister projects every month, collectively creating and improving its more than 40 million articles across hundreds of languages – this all makes Wikipedia one of the most popular web properties in the world. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.

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