Remember the time when you just had to look something up on Wikipedia but there was no connection to the Internet? Well, times like those will soon be obsolete, as Wikipedia is about to add a new feature to its kitty that will enable users to receive articles via text messages on their phones.

Wikipedia users will soon be able to request specific articles from Wikipedia by sending a quick text message to the website through SMS or USSD. This feature is being funded by the Knight Foundation, which has given the Wikimedia Foundation a grant of $600,000. The Knight Foundation is a non-profit media and journalism support organisation.

New Wikipedia logo

We wonder if Wikipedia will send you articles in txt spk.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, this new feature is set to be rolled out within the next few months. Wikimedia is partnering with the Praekelt Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa to implement this feature.

According to the Knight Organisation's blog, Wikipedia on SMS will be joining Wikipedia Zero, which enables 230 million users in 31 countries to access Wikipedia free of cost. The blog adds that in January 2013, Wikipedia signed a partnership that extended free of cost Wikipedia access to at least 100 million more mobile users in five more countries.

The Head of Wikimedia Foundation’s mobile department, Kul Takanao Wadhwa, explained how this idea came about. The Foundation believes that with almost five billion cell phone subscriptions, developing countries of the world are poised to make some amazing changes. “There’s just one catch,” Wadhwa writes. “An overwhelming percentage of new mobile users in India, Senegal and other developing countries can’t afford data charges, so they’re effectively excluded from sites like Wikipedia. It’s a de facto blackout, a kind of information segregation that shunts potential Internet users to the side of a very important road.”

Wikipedia aims to reach four billion mobile page views by June 2013 and one billion users by 2015. We have no doubt the SMS facility along with Wikipedia Zero will be a great tool in helping it reach that stage. The great bit about this entire exercise is that the Wikimedia Foundation is not just making its content available to first-world countries where high-speed Internet connections are prevalent, it is also trying to take the rest of the world along. “Indeed, I firmly believe that access to free knowledge should be a universal human right. News and knowledge change lives for the better. They always have,” Wadhwa writes.

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