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Wikipedia to offer free access to Afghans via mobile phone

Salaam Times

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Around eight million people in Afghanistan, largely in major cities, have access to the internet. [File]

KABUL -- Afghans will soon be able to access Wikipedia for free on their mobile phones thanks to an initiative between the online encyclopaedia and a mobile phone company.

Around eight million Afghans have access to the internet, up from almost none during the Taliban's repressive 1996-2001 regime.

But most do so through mobile phones which use costly data, making access to information a luxury that few can afford regularly to use.

The partnership between the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, and one of Afghanistan's top mobile phone companies, Roshan, intends to change that by giving users free access to the website for up to one year starting later this month.

"The partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation expands the frontier of access to information and knowledge, especially for Afghanistan's youth who make up almost two-thirds of the population," said Altaf Ladak, deputy CEO of Roshan.

The company sees the initiative, dubbed "Wikipedia Zero" and first launched in other developing countries in 2012, as key to Afghanistan's development.

Many of the country's colleges and universities still use textbooks from the 1980s, after the Soviet invasion but before the civil war of the early 1990s that destroyed much of Afghanistan's infrastructure.

The Taliban regime that followed also banned much modern technology and restricted access to information.

Giving Afghan students a boost

"Hundreds of thousands of young students across Afghanistan still access information from decades ago and it's having an impact in terms of human development of the country," said Roshan spokesman Shafi Sharifi.

"Having free access to Wikipedia allows the youth, especially university students, to get the latest information in their field of study or interest," he said.

Najib Nangyal, spokesperson for Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, welcomed the "excellent initiative" between Wikipedia and Roshan and called on other cell phone companies to join the programme.

"Many Afghan students can not afford to have access to the internet," he told Salaam Times. "This will help Afghan youth to improve their knowledge."

"College students really need to have access to the internet, especially to the pages that provide educational information," said Arash Ashna, a student at Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul.

"Wikipedia is like an international library and Roshan's step will definitely help Afghan students," he told Salaam Times.

"Due to financial reasons, many students cannot afford access to the internet," he said. "Therefore, we are asking Roshan not to limit this service to one year."

[Sulaiman from Kabul contributed to this report.]

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Many students do not have access to the internet, due to financial issues. Therefore, we ask Roshan not to limit this service to only one year.

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it is very interesting.

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How it is activated and how it works? Mine is free for one year.

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How it is activated and how it works? Mine is free for one year.

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Rowshan Telecommunication Company has always tried for the welfare of Afghans. I am very happy for their efforts, and this is very good news. Now, I wish that Afghan youth will get advantage of this golden chance, and pick a drop in the ocean of education. Thanks a world again to Rowshan.

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Dear friends, greetings! I want to share with you something about yesterday's bloody attack in Paktia. I pray and ask for paradise for all the martyrs, and I pray to lord to heal those injured in the attack.
The rest, I pray to God for peace.

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Thanks a lot for such a good message. For sure, it is a good and big favor for the Afghan educated youth. How can we get access to this information?

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Thanks, it is a good comment.

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It was a very good article.

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My name is Fazlur Rabi Momand, a resident of Khas Kunar District of Kunar Province.

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Greetings to you. Sir, it is a very good initiative. All Afghans cannot afford purchasing internet; therefore, Wikipedia can help in solving their issues. Thanks a world for your initiatives.

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I consider this as a good work.

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It will be good, it if it is done.

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It is really a new and unique initiative of development. With this, the University students will get updates about the contemporary technology easily and in short time, and they will find out about the difficulties they have in the contemporary technology, and this will be useful for them. We thank a lot to the mentioned companies for their useful step. We hope that before the end of the year long term, they will get profit of it, as much as possible.

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It is a good step; however, the information published by Wikipedia is not 100% trustable. Everyone can make changes in the Wikipedia information as per his favor. Now, as Rowshan does so, other mobile companies may better publish other educational materials websites which information is more trustable compare to that of Wikipedia. And thank you very much for publishing this news.

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