Zero-rating in emerging mobile markets: Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero in Ghana
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Despite widespread controversy surrounding zero-rating—that is, the practice of subsidizing mobile data—the field suffers from a lack of inquiry into user understanding of and experience with zero-rated services. This paper explores how Ghanaian mobile users interact with zero-rated mobile applications Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero. Based on semi-structured interviews with users and non-users of the applications, I discuss how mobile phone users perceive Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero, what motivates them to use or not use the applications, and how the availability of the applications influences their data-buying strategies. Findings suggest that respondents, including those who did not actively use the applications, understood and experienced Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero in ways divergent from the providers’ aim of expanding access to online content and services.
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