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.”