There are more than 70 million Orange customers across Africa and the Middle East, but only about 10 million are able to access the web from their handsets. That gap may be narrowing, though, now that the provider has decided to offer free mobile access to Wikipedia for users throughout the region. Under the program, users with an Orange SIM card and a web-enabled phone will be able to access the site as many times as they want, without incurring any data charges. Heralding the partnership as the first of its kind, Orange says its new initiative should make it easier for emerging market consumers to access the online encyclopedia, which Wikimedia Foundation director Sue Gardner described as a «public good.» The offer is slated to roll out across 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, beginning early this year. Find more details in the press release, after the break.