Orange and Wikipedia offer free knowledge in Africa and the Middle East

Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, have joined forces to offer free learning to mobile browsers in Africa and the Middle East (AMEA).

Well, free learning and also free looking up of mundane stuff like what film you know the dad in Whip It from (Home Alone) and how many UK number 1s R-Kelly has had (two).

As long as mobile surfers with an Orange SIM and a web-enabled handset stick to the mobile Wikipedia page, they won't be charged for mobile data.

"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," said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn't. We're thrilled to be Orange's partner in this important endeavour."

Marc Rennard, group executive VP, Africa, Middle-East and Asia at Orange, added: "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 encyclopaedia.

"It is the first partnership of this kind in the world where we are enabling customers to access Wikipedia without incurring any data charges; and shows Orange's ability, once again, to innovate in Africa and the Middle East, and bring more value to our customers."

The partnership will see 20 African and Middle Eastern countries get free access in 2012. It's a nice touch from Orange. Sure, it promotes its network - but it is less brazen than free cinema tickets, at least.