By Arjuna Rao Chavala, a Wikipedian from Bengaluru.
The long-awaited free access to Wikipedia has finally arrived in India with the Wikimedia Foundation and Aircel announcing a partnership on July 25, 2013. Wikipedia Zero on Aircel is expected to increase free access to Wikipedia worldwide to 470 million subscribers, with Aircel adding 60 million mobile subscribers. In this post, I would like to share more details on free access to Wikipedia the steps to be followed by users in Indian languages.
Aircel prepaid mobile subscribers with smartphones can enable data services and visit the Mobile Wikipedia page in English (http://m.wikipedia.org), Hindi (http://hi.m.wikipedia.org), or any Wikipedia in 18 Indian languages by prefixing the language code to <.m.wikipedia.org>. As smartphones have an English language interface by default, users can access Wikipedia in English easily. In order to access Wikipedia in other languages, it is necessary to ensure the handset displays fonts in those languages, and to set up free virtual keyboards. Android support for rendering Hindi fonts started with version 4.1 (July 2012) and moved to full support in the latest version 4.3 (released in July 2013). With the introduction of version 2.3.7 of the Android operating system in February 2011, Samsung started offering Android phones with support for Indian languages. Google too offers a Hindi keyboard app (transliteration and alphabetical ordering versions). Users who prefer to use InScript (The government standard for physical keyboards in Indian languages) can try the Multiling app, which supports most world languages, including the Indian ones.
Airtel started offering free access to Wikipedia in June this year under an offer launched in partnership with Google. Airtel customers can access Google Search, Gmail, and Google Plus services for free. By using the default browser to visit the Airtel Freezone home page, which displays Google Search, users can search for information and spot the relevant Wikipedia link in the search results. By clicking on the link, the Wikipedia page can be accessed. If the user would like to navigate either to another Wikipedia page or an external link from within the Wikipedia page, an alert about the data charges is displayed. The user has the option of continuing to browse or going back to the previous page. In order to view a page again, the user can always search for it again in the Freezone again. There is a limit of 1 GB per month for free access. Airtel Freezone home page is also available in several Indian languages.
Wikipedia Zero is now more than a year old and is available in 17 countries. Wikipedia usage statistics indicate that the number of pageviews grow rapidly in the months after the launch of Wikipedia Zero and then remain flat. It will be interesting to watch how the India rollout of Wikipedia Zero performs and whether this will increase pageviews on Indian-language Wikipedias.
Cross-posted from Wikimedia India Chapter blog.
Edited by Rohini Lakshané: rohini at wikimedia dot in