Communications/2017 project to promote Wikipedia in Iraq

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Wikimedia Foundation ED Katherine Maher and Iraqi Wikimedian Sarmad Yaseen

The Wikimedia Foundation is working with Wikimedians in Iraq to increase awareness of Wikipedia. Our goals are to improve recognition of Wikipedia and understanding of its uses among Iraqi internet users.

As part of the2017 Wikipedia Zero partnership with Asiacell in Iraq, we have an opportunity to reach millions of Iraqis and introduce them to Wikipedia.

Defining the challenge[edit]

Recent research shows that Iraqi awareness of Wikipedia is less than 20%:

  • 11% of all Iraqis surveyed have heard of Wikipedia
  • 19% of Iraqi internet users have heard of Wikipedia

We believe that working to clarify understanding of Wikipedia will increase usage and eventually, participation in Wikimedia projects.

Community context & direction[edit]

This project began with community consultation. In October 2016, we asked Wikipedia readers, fans, and contributors on Facebook how they explain Wikipedia. There were 63 comments. This is a selection:

  • It's open to all.
  • The best encyclopedia.
  • I use it every day because their information balanced and impartial.
  • Sums up information in a gentle way, accurate, simple, easy to understand.
  • The vast amount of information and how they are presented, especially the English Wikipedia!
  • I'm from Iraq started use Wikipedia since I was 10 years ago was the first search in Wikipedia is anaconda snake, I was obsessed with reptiles.
  • Because their information is correct 90 % and we're looking for credibility in the time that has so many rumors.
  • Many of us benefited from Wikipedia for studies and general information.
  • "Because we are a great people and nothing stands in our way and our pursuit of knowledge".
  • The coolest site ever. The information is great.
  • Wikipedia knowledge road.
  • I'd like to thank the employees at this location for their efforts to bring the best to them as they have served us for science and humanity.... and Wikipedia are the best.
  • "Because no libraries in Iraq. The Internet is the only way to information. And Wikipedia is the best place for information".
  • More than wonderful. Treasure is priceless.
  • "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia answer all your questions to tease the curious mind."
  • But I have a simple note more themes found in the details of the free encyclopedia In the English language than Arabic with all my thanks and appreciation for your efforts.
  • Thank you for the valuable information.

We then coordinated with Iraqi Wikimedian leaders, including Sarmad Yaseen, to take creative direction about how any materials should portray Iraq. The answer was simple: as a place where people live and work, not just war and destruction.

The 2017 project in brief[edit]


  1. Increase awareness and understanding of Wikipedia
  2. Drive new usage of Wikipedia


  • Asiacell subscribers in Iraq
  • Internet users in Nigeria


  • Strategic Marketing approach
  • 2 web videos
    • In Arabic language
    • In Central Kurdish language


  • Video views (more than 1 million impressions)
  • Social Media buzz

Key Performance Indicators

  • Positive change in “Have heard of Wikipedia” annual phone surveying of Iraq (from benchmark 19% “have heard of Wikipedia” in February 2017)
  • Increased unique devices accessing Wikipedia content in Iraq


  • Planning: February
  • Development: March
  • Production: April
  • Launch: May
  • Evaluation & reporting: July

2017 Project team[edit]

Iraqi Wikimedians[edit]

  • Ravan - Admin, Arabic Wikipedia & Iraqi Wikimedian
  • Sarmad Yaseen - Iraqi Wikimedian and Wikipedia Zero partnership requester

Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

External partner[edit]

To support our awareness work in Iraq, we are working with an organization called Hama Advertising. Hama specializes in video production with an office in Eribl, Iraq. Hama will lead all video production in this project.

We chose to work with Hama based on their expertise in video marketing for the region, and their experience with our Wikipedia Zero partner (Asiacell).

Final Videos[edit]


Measuring the impact of these videos is a critical step in understanding how advertising can help Wikipedia awareness.

Approach to measurement[edit]

To look at the project holistically, we are measuring 4 primary areas:

  1. Video view count - How many people saw this? In Iraq, the distribution is entirely over digital channels (YouTube, Facebook) so we can measure video plays and video completions. We can even measure unique audience members. So far, the video has a total of 5.1 million unique plays (not complete views) which represents about 18% of the Iraqi population.
  2. Social media reactions - What is the tone of responses? This helps us understand the feelings evoked by the video. Did this inspire? Did it excite? Did it frustrate? We look at comments and replies to the digital video, especially on Facebook.
  3. Clicks to site, increased unique devices during video promotion - What change in traffic did this create? This is generally rather low. But we are interested in how many people CLICK on the video (which re-directs to or during the promotion period. We also look for "spikes" in unique device visits and page views during the time. These are correlated but obviously not directly attributed.
  4. Changes in "awareness" levels in follow-up survey - How many MORE people have heard of Wikipedia after the ads? We are doing a follow up phone survey to the one done before. Our current awareness level is 19% of Iraqi internet users know Wikipedia. Will it go up? We also ask HOW people heard of Wikipedia to see what % mention a video ad.

Final report[edit]

Raising Awareness in Iraq -- Impact Report

Key data points

  1. 5.1 Million video views on video ad
  2. 36,000+ positive reactions to videos vs. less than 30 negative responses on social media
  3. Measurable increase to Arabic Wikipedia during campaign period (high traffic spikes during SMS blast details) (Slide 8 of Report)
  4. 32% rise in Wikipedia awareness among Iraqi internet users (55% rise among Asiacell users)


  • 100+ news articles in 31 countries
  • 13 million mobile users introduced to Wikipedia