Grants:TPS/Anelsona/Wikipedia Project for Offline Education in Medicine (POEM)

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This Wikimedia Participation Support request was funded in the fiscal year 2014-15. A report is available.

Wikipedia Project for Offline Education in Medicine (POEM)
summaryThis grant would support field research by a team from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs' program in Development Practice towards a medical needs assessment, infrastructure survey and user behavior study to support the introduction of offline Wikipedia Medical information in areas of Latin America without connectivity, using the Dominican Republic as a laboratory
event locationDominican Republic
event date(s)9 March - 19 March 2017
amount requested$4,100
home countryUnited States

Proposed participation[edit]

We are seeking travel support for Wikipedia POEM, which will bring together a team of students to conduct a medical needs assessment and user behavior study for offline Wikipedia medical information and training purposes, directed to Spanish- and Creole-speaking populations in Latin America, beginning with rural clinics in the Dominican Republic. The team will create a set of recommendations based on its research, and create a list of needed medical training materials in the region (in the appropriate languages).

Working in partnership with the Mount Sinai Wikipedia group and Wikipedia’s Afrocrowd, it will seek to create sample articles and other content in the indicated languages designed for both online Wikipedia and for inclusion in a dedicated Internet-in-a-Box device, tailored to serve medical practitioners in areas with low bandwidth.

The project will work with Mount Sinai’s partner hospitals and clinics in the Dominican Republic to research, test and evaluate the existing training materials and their usability for the intended audiences, given the specific ICT environments, and make recommendations for their next iterations.

The project is based in a capstone class of four students at SIPA, made up of two Peruvian development experts, a Mexican development expert, and a graduate in global public health from Stanford. They are working in partnership with two pediatric emergency medicine residents from Mount Sinai’s Global Public Health program, and in consultation with the Dominican Medical Association of New York.

The project receives training and support from Lane Rasberry, the Wikipedian in Residence at Consumer Reports, who facilitates the publication of health and medical information on Wikipedia.

Activities and expected impact[edit]

The project is being conducted as follows:

1. The SIPA organizers are faculty member Anne Nelson and MDP Practice Manager Kendal Stewart, with support from Mariela Machado (SIPA 2016), and in partnership with Dr. Ramona Sunderwirth from Mount Sinai, Lane Rasberry from Wikipedia, and Adam Holt from Internet-in-a-Box.

2. The students were chosen from a competitive field at the beginning of the spring semester. All four of the students have field experience in international settings. Three are native Spanish speakers and the fourth is fluent in French.

3. The students all have active Wikipedia accounts, have been engaged in surveying and evaluating the available Spanish content and editing a series of Wikipedia articles related to the project. They have also taken a two-hour training session with Lane Rasberry.

4. Over January and February, the students have been interviewing Dominican and other physicians familiar with the environment in the New York City area. They have been conducting research as they prepare detailed questionnaires dealing with medical information needs, local medical conditions, rural technological infrastruction, and user behavior in the indicated zone.

5. Three of the SIPA students and two of the faculty members plan to travel to the Dominican Republic in the area of San Pedro de Macoris over spring break in March 2017. The students expect to be in the field for nine days, the faculty for five. Over that time they will conduct interviews at the Hospital Antonio Musa, one or more medical school(s), and local clinics that work in partnership with Mount Sinai’s Global Health Program. (Three Mount Sinai physicians conducted a separate research trip for the project in February, and recorded their findings from their interviews with a range of physicians.)

6. The SIPA and Mount Sinai researchers will visit a number of medical facilities in the Dominican Republic, including a medical school, a major urban hospital (Antonio Musa); rural clinics without connectivity; and medical centers that serve the Haitian community.

The research includes:
a) available offline technology and partnerships (Kiwix, Internet-in-a-Box, Zapya, etc.);
b) existing digital training resources (text and video) for different medical populations (medical personnel, medical students, and local health workers) that are easily available through Creative Commons, in the indicated languages (English, Spanish, French and / or Creole);
c) the state of ICT infrastructure in-country, and specifically in the health centers selected;
1. the difference between rural and urban access;
2. reliability of connection and electricity, access and cost;
3. user behavior (hyper-local)
d) desirability and feasibility of video production for training materials, in partnership with Wikipedia
e) research and preparation of Spanish and Creole training content

The teams will be also conduct a needs assessment regarding specific areas of medical information and training, such as:
a. HIV/AIDS treatment,
b. emergency room protocol,
c. use of medical technology such as the CT-scan, fetal monitor, etc.,
d. national protocol for indicated areas.

7. The students will create sample prototypes for the training materials and will train in the use of the devices and apps involved.

8. Upon their return, each student team will create Wikipedia content for the project, based on the needs assessment, in the indicated language (English, Spanish, and / or French / Creole), in

9. The entire team will write an extensive report documenting and analyzing the process and the outcome, recording their findings and offering a set of recommendations to the Wikimedia Foundation and Internet-in-a-Box. This will include a full assessment of their current offline medical resources and their applicability to the areas in question. (The students have been requested to offer summaries of their research for online publication at, and the SIPA State of the Planet blog.)

10. After the end of the semester, if additional funding is obtained, some participants in the project may return to partner clinics to share the training materials and evaluate the response.

Our research in the use of offline platforms in Cuba, including offline Wikipedia, has been of considerable interest to the Wikipedia community. Anne Nelson has presented its findings at Wikipedia conferences in San Diego and New York, as well as in major fora in Miami, Washington and Amsterdam. The findings were published by Columbia University, in two articles in Foreign Affairs, and in a major report by the Center for International Media Assistance in Washington. The Wikipedia Journal has requested a major article on the research. We would seek similar dissemination for this followup project. The participants will continue be available to present and confer with various Wikipedia communities.

We hope to establish ongoing relations with medical personnel and officials in the Dominican Republic. The Mount Sinai Global Health program is interested in an ongoing collaboration with the SIPA program (for the first time). Various participants in the project will be working in Latin America in the future in fields including public health and medical education, and will be equipped to carry the work further.


How will you know if the project is successful and you've met your goals? Please include the following targets and feel free to add more specific to your project:

  • If the recommendations allow Wikipedia and its partners to achieve stronger partnerships in the work.
  • If the policy and medical students learn how to use Wikipedia in their work moving forward.
  • If Internet-in-a-Box is able to adapt its content for use in Spanish- and Creole-language clinical settings without Internet access.
  • Number of total participants
    • Many. (10 principle students, residents and faculty, plus Mount Sinai's Wikipedia group and various consulting partners).

Budget breakdown[edit]

We have received a $2000 travel grant (the maximum) from the Earth Institute, which will cover the three SIPA students' meals and local transportation. (The faculty member's and advisor's meals and incidentals will be out of pocket.)

Estimated Travel Budget @ Five Researchers (Three SIPA students, one professor, one technical advisor.)

  • Flight (NYC-Santo Domingo RT) = $400
  • Hotel (7 nights x $60) = $420
  • $820 x 5 people = $4,100