First National Bank announced on Monday that it would offer free access to the online encyclopaedia as well as other educational sites.
"Not only can FNB Connect ADSL customers receive free access to Wikipedia, but additionally free access to other educational sites, such as learn.co.za and the SA Council of Higher Education Universities 24/7," the financial institution said.
Learners at Sinenjongo High School in Joe Slovo Park outside Cape Town lobbied the mobile operators to allow free access to Wikipedia, similar to a programme in Uganda and Kenya.
Operators were generally non-committal, particularly as data is seen as a huge revenue stream in the short term.
"We think this kind of programme is achievable, but we will have to investigate its affordability for a mass rollout," Mthobeli Tengimfene, executive head of the Vodacom Foundation told News24.
Google partnered with 8ta to launch a programme that allows free data for the first page of search results as well as Wikipedia information.
The Google Free Zone programme is a way that mobile users can appreciate the value of data and may result in higher consumption, a Google representative said.
"We can't comment on any discussion with any of the other operators, but it's worth saying that by giving away some access - by giving users who otherwise would not be using any data services... the users will understand the value of data, and will actually purchase more data," Bryan Nelson, business development manager for Google SA told News24.
FNB has come under fire from politicians recently for an ad campaign interpreted to suggest that the South African government in general is corrupt and education in particular is ineptly managed.
"The African National Congress is appalled by First National Bank (FNB) advertisements in which the ANC, its leadership and government, is under attack on a commercial masqueraded as youth views," ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in response to the advert.
First Rand Bank CEO Sizwe Nxasana sent an apology to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Monday. The text message was leaked to the media.
"Good Morning Minister. I have instructed FNB to remove the video clips from their website this morning. I will investigate how and why the clips ended [up] on their website. Sincere apologies for this. Sizwe," the SMS read.
FNB acknowledged the lobbying of the learners to have free access to educational sites.
"We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Learners at Sinenjongo High School for their positive step toward improving their education."
Access is available from 19:00 to 23:00 for FNB Connect ADSL customers.
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