Wikipedia to be first Data Free mobile website on Earth

When the term Data Free comes up on your news readers and in the newspapers in the coming months, you'll know that it started here, and with Wikipedia and Orange, who together will be offering free – that is, without data charges – use of Wikipedia's vast knowledge archive. What this means for the future of the mobile industry is this: the door has been opened to free data, or at least that's what Wikipedia is aiming at through mobile users in Africa and the Middle East soon. Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation have announced in a press release today that they are aiming to make their store of information available for free to those who need it, those who otherwise would have no such simple access to the information you and I take for granted.

Africa and the Middle East, otherwise known as AMEA, will have access to Wikipedia at no charge through their internet-enabled phone so long as it has an Orange SIM inside it. This project is part of a larger campaign initiated by the Wikimedia Foundation to connect with people across the earth whose only access to the internet is through their phone. This project and offering will be rolling out throughout 2012, reaching eventually a total of 20 African and Middle Eastern countries that Orange has a presence in. Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation had the following to say:

"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. This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn't." – Gardner

Seem like a pretty awesome program to you? Then on another note: do you think this is the start of subsidized "free" data for users around the world, or will it be limited to programs exactly like this one? Wikipedia are you doing a bunch of good here?