Wikipedia hopes for billion users with mobile

The rapid spread of cellular networks in the developing world is providing fertile ground for this expansion, even as it robs the site of potential editors, Jay Walsh, senior director of communications at the Wikimedia Foundation, told AFP in Tokyo.

Reaching people in far-flung parts of the world where computers are scarce requires a pared down, text-only version of the collaborative online encyclopaedia, he said. "It's surprisingly challenging to take your website and make it available on the simplest phone," Walsh said on the sidelines of a conference in the Japanese capital on Sunday.

"In areas such as the Middle East, opening your phone and accessing a project like Wikipedia could cost you the equivalent of a couple of US dollars, which is a serious amount of money in those countries. "We're trying to eliminate that barrier so people don't have to think about that," he said, adding the site's global audience stood at around 483-million.

Tie-ups with telecommunications providers such as France-based Orange and VimpelCom of the Netherlands, are driving this expansion, penning deals that mean waiving data charges for customers accessing the site, in an initiative called Wikipedia Zero.

According to figures from Morgan Stanley, the number of mobile phones and other portable devices accessing the internet will overtake the number of laptops and desktops this year. But while browsing is easy on a handset, editing a page on a small screen and without a physical keyboard is more of a challenge.


The number of active editors – someone who edits a page at least five times a month – peaked on the English language site in 2007 at 50 000, he said, adding it has been in decline ever since and now stands at around 33 000. "There's a sense of the project being finished," he said.

Executives hope Wikipedia Zero will help rebalance the editorial brain drain, expanding into markets where local versions of the site remain in the start-up phase.

The Swahili language version of Wikipedia – one of the 285 available – has just 88 active editors. But, admits Walsh, the constraints of the mobile phone as a tool for editing, remain a big hurdle. "Our main focus is on the technological infrastructure to make it easy for this to work," he said. "It's about big ideas, bringing about change and making the world a better place." – Sapa-AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sapa Afp
Guest Author

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

The South African connection: How mercenaries aided Trump ally in...

The UN found that Trump ally Erik Prince violated the Libyan arms embargo. Here are the South Africans the report says helped him to do so

Q&A Sessions: African court ‘will be a tough job’ — Dumisa...

Lawyer, author and political activist Dumisa Ntsebeza talks to Nicolene de Wee about his appointment as judge of the African Court on Human and...

More top stories

In a bizarre twist VBS liquidators sue KPMG for R863mn

In filed court documents, the VBS liquidators are blaming auditing firm KPMG’s negligence for the alleged looting of the bank

Snip, snip: Mboweni eyes wage bill, other future spending cuts

Last year, the finance minister noted that increased government spending has failed to promote growth over the past decade

Budget: Mboweni pegs recovery hopes on vaccine efficacy, lower public...

The treasury forecasts 3.3% growth, but warns this will fall to 1.6% if the fledgeling vaccination programme fails to stem successive Covid waves

READ IT IN FULL: Mboweni’s 2021 budget speech

Read the finance minister's address on the budget for 2021
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…