Ina Fried

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Orange to Bring Free Wikipedia Access to Cell Users in Africa and Middle East

Mobile carrier Orange said on Tuesday that it plans to offer mobile customers in Africa and the Middle East free, unlimited access to Wikipedia.

Orange said it plans to roll out the free service over the course of 2012 to customers in 20 countries, with access in the first countries launching early this year. The service will be available on any phone with an Orange SIM card and the ability to view the mobile Web, with no data plan required.

“In countries where access to information is not always readily available, we are making it simple and easy for our customers to use the world’s most comprehensive online encyclopedia,” Orange Executive VP Marc Rennard said in a statement. “It is the first partnership of this kind in the world where we are enabling customers to access Wikipedia without incurring any data charges.”

Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said the partnership with Orange will give Wikipedia access to millions who have not had it.

“Wikipedia is an important service, a public good, and so we want people to be able to access it for free, regardless of what device they’re using,” Gardner said.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work