It may seem like a foreign concept to those in the western world. People in the world who don’t have access to the Internet in general or to common sites like Wikipedia. It is a reality, though.
In many parts of the world, Internet access is not readily available. Or, some sites that list factual details and information are blocked. The faces behind Wikipedia want to put an end to this lack of information. To do this, Wikipedia executives have decided to deliver Wiki articles to the far reaches of the earth via text message.
Texting Articles: A New Idea
In the near future, someone who wants access to a Wikipedia article can simply send a SMS. This message will be met with a complete article sent through text to the person who requested the information.
Say, for example, that I am a teenage living in the remote corners of China. I have access to a cellular network, but not to the Internet on a regular or consistent basis.
I need to complete a report for school, so I send a SMS message to Wikipedia. In minutes, Wikipedia sends me the article that I have requested. The whole process takes just moments to complete. I have my article and Wikipedia has expanded its user database.
Funding for the Project: Big Bucks
A project like the one Wikipedia is working on isn’t cheap. The company has been given a nice injection of cash from The Knight Foundation -- $600,000 to be exact. The money will be used to perfect the Wikipedia text project. You can’t ignore the fact that Wikipedia runs completely on funding too.
Now that Wikipedia is reaching out to people in remote locations, the company needs more funding than ever before. If Wikipedia is to remain a free service, the site needs as much funding as it can get. Does this project make sense, though?
Sending Lengthy Texts
Presumably, Wikipedia intends to target people who do not have smartphones. Otherwise, those people would just use a phone to access the Wikipedia page needed. So, Wikipedia articles will have to be sent in chunks to regular cellphones. This could be frustrating.
Imagine a text message sent in various 150-word chunks. Not an easy thing to read or to send! It will be interesting to see how this project unfolds, and how Wikipedia’s new initiative will work out. There’s no doubt that the venture is an admirable one, but I’m not certain how Wikipedia will manage to send such long articles to non-smartphones.
Wikipedia hasn’t expanded on this project further, though I will keep you up to date on any developments. I assume that the project will be ready to roll out sooner rather than later now that the company has attained funding.
Wikipedia does already have something like this new venture in the works called “Wikipedia Zero,” which is a service that provides a text-only version of the popular site to those who cannot access the Internet. Seemingly, Wikipedia will work with this existing knowledge to make the new project work.