Free Wikipedia has now become a reality in SA, with MTN responding to its #NekNomonation challenge by giving free Wikipedia access to mobile users.
#NekNomination, an online challenge craze sweeping social media, began as a drinking game, but in South Africa, it has become a challenge issued online to others to make a positive difference.
MTN notes that the plight for free mobile Wikipedia started in 2012 when a group Grade 11 learners at Sinenjongo High school in Joe Slovo Park, Cape Town, sent a letter to the four mobile network operators, Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and 8ta, urging them to give their customers free mobile access to Wikipedia. Now, 2 years later and after tireless advocating from Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com and the learners, MTN has decided to provide free Wikipedia access as their answer to their #NekNomination. MTN says in a country such as South Africa with high cellphone penetration and mobile internet use, this open content initiative is a key stepping stone to improving education via equal access to information.
This offer will greatly increase the access to information for South Africans. Of the 10 million internet users in South Africa, 8 million access the internet from their mobile phones. Most teenagers in South Africa, even in poor communities, have cellphones. Many teenagers in South Africa don’t have easy access to a library, nor do they have books or encyclopaedias at home. Free Wikipedia will now enable students to look up words or concepts covered in school, especially for students whose first language is not English, and many words or concepts covered in class are unknown.
Free Wikipedia for learners has been a dream of Dr Streicher for many years whilst volunteering as a computer studies teacher at Sinenjongo High and was the driving force behind the original group of leaders that started the project.
“I am very proud of the Sinenjongo High 12 A class of 2013 which I had the privilege of meeting during a couple of supplemental IT classes. Thanks to the dedication of the teachers at Sinenjongo, and the hard work of the students, the 12 A class at Sinenjongo had a 100% matric pass rate. Several students are continuing their studies at tertiary institutions this year, and one student has been accepted for studying medicine at UCT. I hope that Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom Mobile will heed the call and offer free access to Wikipedia for their subscribers as well,” said Dr Streicher.