Econet Zero’s free access to Wikipedia, Coursera, edX – greatest event in Zim’s net history

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ecoschool-zeroIf there’s one tool I’ve been always been thankful to the internet for since I came to know this amazing tool, it is Wikipedia. I cannot live without it, and I’m sure even you don’t spend a day without dropping by the site to feed on knowledge about whatever it is you’re browsing on. The internet would be very disorganised without it. Yes, Wikipedia itself is not very organised, but disorganised order is the essence of the internet itself. Freedom in accessing knowledge and being a part of its creation. Open to everyone to use, to disagree and to contribute their knowledge. That is very powerful.

So, when Econet announced today that they were zero rating Wikipedia, I was blown away. I have wished a local operator would do this, but a part of me has always admitted there has to be business case, and ‘free’ is rarely so. But it has happened. Econet Zero means anyone with just the simplest of feature phones, and access to an Econet line, can browse the whole Wikipedia for free. It’s very hard to overstate how huge an impact this will have on internet users in Zimbabwe.

But it’s not just the Wikipedia. It’s a whole list of amazing MOOCs and other educational related site. There’s Coursera, edX.orgCodeCademy for the aspiring programmers, Udacity.com and Udemy.com. If you have used Coursera and edX, you’d know how big a deal this is. There’s also other subject specific sites like WolframAlpha (a Maths search engine), some music sites, some book sites, and howto’s like Wikihow.com.

Econet Zero seeks to address one of our biggest developmental problems on the continent. Education and skill are a big problem in Africa. Where you manage to scrounge access to a simple device and a SIM card, the cost of mobile broadband data is still a big bottleneck reality for many an enthusiastic learner. The internet allows us to teach ourselves, but the cost of dat gets in the way. Econet Zero changes this in a massive way. So massive we risk not comprehending enough just how much opportunity this present before us right now.

Of course it’s not all the MOOCs and educational sites out there, but I’m not in complaining mode right now. Even if the list was just Wikipedia, edX and Coursera, it’d be complete enough. One very useful educational site we noticed is missing is bookboon.com, and maybe it will be added in future.

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Some of these sites have heavy video content, so you start to wonder how the short term business case is making sense. How they are selling this to shareholders etc… But maybe on this one Econet (and their shareholders) are not looking at the immediate business case. Or maybe someone external – the founders, say – is paying Econet for it. We’ll try to find out more.

But whatever the source, for now it’s free learning all the way. And we think this is the greatest event to happen in Zimbabwe’s internet history!



31 Comments

  1. TSA - The Serial Analyst says:

    This is really awesome! Very awesome indeed!!!!!!

  2. Marshall says:

    Horaiti Econet kwakumberi!!!! I personally think Coursera, Udacity and Edx are by far much better that what we are getting at our local universities….

  3. Chanyane says:

    Cool article. Hoping our school going lot will know about this. On a side note — internet would be disorganized without Wikipedia !!! LOL!

  4. Trevor Sibanda says:

    The DNS filtering for wikipedia.org is not properly configured, they must open access to en.wikipedia.org and http://www.wikipedia.org as the dns resolves to diffenrent ip addresses for these sites ! COme on Econet, Wikipedia is the best site in this package.

  5. Fatso says:

    aiwa kwakumberi kwamaenda Econet

  6. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

    hahaha..this is pathetic, only one educational website matters..and thats YOUTUBE!!, u may as well throw the EcoSchool into the dust bin

    1. hahaha..you are pathetic, cant see opportunity even when it slaps you in the face!

      1. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

        opportunity in what sense dear Sir…given access to wikis, blogs, in the 21st century and you call that opportunity, come on. Video and VLearning my good Sir, has the ultimate effect in education than under par sites being offered. Thats why in this day and age you got Western institutions got Youtube channels, coz they leave more impression than down-under sites we have. Quantity is nothing, quality got the decibels we need. This is just an Econet competition gimmick, but dont worry, like always everything from Econet is appraised as eden

        1. Please visit Courserg.org and edX.org first. Spend an hour or so in a class where you watch a video of the whole lecture delivered at Havard, MIT etc… then come back and read the article again, and then lets discuss Econet Zero.

          1. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

            there is no need to discuss Econet Zero if there ain’t Youtube channels. But ofcourse to the novice, its the talk of the town

            1. That obviously just means you just didn’t bother checking out Coursera or edX. When you eventually do….

              1. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

                i did Sir, actually i’m a codecacademy, jsfiddle, stakeoverflow, css-tricks member to name the list, the sites/forums

                in my experience are good, they make me to be a good developer but as much as you know they all dont measure up to Youtube channels, give me anything

                from what they have that can measure up to Angular.js, or FbF/Laravel Youtube channel

              2. munhuwashe says:

                Maybe what you should be talking about is a way for econet to filter content ye youtube so that they can make educational material available for free.. Remember econet is paying for your access to these sites… They cant pay kuti uteerere munotidako 🙂 Youtube has more than just educational material if get what i am saying….

              3. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

                “a way for econet to filter content ye youtube so that they can make educational material available for free”..thats what i’m talking bout, not everyone is pa tube for entertainment ka, so for me most of those ’50’ sites have a less deal, but they are a good start, especially for free 🙂

              4. but they are a good start,especially for free 🙂

                thank you.
                I had a big issue with you calling this “pathetic”

              5. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

                hahaha..pathetic in that there aint Youtube Sir, give us Youtube give us everything (in good faith)

            2. Nthombi says:

              Mukaranga you are being very shallow minded at this point in time, yes youtube teaches you a series of things but this is a starting point. One day at a time sir maybe like the article says Econet will progress and add youtube to the Zero program. think outside the box, and stop being negative about the great opportunity Econet is providing for our people.

              1. Mukaranga WeZhira says:

                Nthombi, conventional wisdom always states that if competition is stiff, create competitional gimmicks at all costs. This is what monopoly Econet has done, the program to me still remains pathetic, whether its a start or not, in business offer the best or nothing…do away with all those 50 sites and give us, one monster (Youtube). Plus Nthombi unozivawo creditibility ye Wikipedia yakamira sei? Isu hatingosimudzi saga tisati tanzvera kuti mukati munei, unoenda nemakanda enyimo, uchiti izhezha. Wake up younger

  7. Mike says:

    The truth is that Wikipedia is not a scholarly recommended site. It is better to train your students not to visit the site altogether.

    1. True, lecturers already rightfully don’t want any Wikipedia references or the site to be used a source. Its not for scholarly stuff. Really for all other knowledge seeking purposes, and even then, a reader needs to check the sources of the Wikipedia article for themselves and read further.

      1. heavyndimba says:

        shut up wena man..ges ul buy the books for all of us.

  8. Joseph Neusu says:

    Are all the people clamouring for free access to Youtube genuinely seeking knowledge or just free video access? Let’s appreciate the offer from Econet and find ways of dealing with our video requirements personally. I think Coursera is up there, what with its verified certificates

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