New Readers/Access

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New Readers
Research and findings
  Finding #1: Access
  Finding #2: Awareness
FAQ and all pages

The New Readers team conducted a series of research efforts over early 2016. From our findings, we're hoping to improve the way that readers in our target countries access and experience Wikipedia through changes to user interface, awareness, partnerships, and community efforts. Many of these readers have challenges accessing Wikipedia (and other internet sites) because of issues with infrastructure, cost of data, and more. People around the world are coming online, and for many of them data is prohibitively expensive. During our research, we learned that the cost of data in all 3 countries we researched impeded internet usage.

We are looking at access through 2 lenses:

  • Offline: I can't access the internet
  • Affordability: internet access is expensive for me

What we are doing[edit]


Advising the Kiwix Offline Medical Grant[edit]

Anne Gomez, Jorge Vargas, and Toby Negrin are advising Kiwix on the Offline Medical grant that was funded through Project Grants. As part of that, we are offering design, usability, and product support. As we're getting deeper into understanding the fully offline space, we are analyzing past grants to see what lessons have been learned across many offline pilots throughout the years.

Piloting offline medical Wikipedia[edit]

Jack Rabah is leading a project with the Africa Center to deploy offline hotspots to 1-10 medical clinics all 36 states in Nigeria. The hotspots are created by Internet in a Box and Wikiproject Medicine and include freely licensed content from Wikipedia and other sources.

For more details, see the project page at New Readers/Wikipedia Offline Medical Pilot.


We're currently in the process of digging into addressing affordability as a barrier to Wikipedia usage. In this process, we are considering new efforts to address the affordable internet globally. Our investigation will follow two distinct tracks:

  1. Investigate the global field of the affordable internet. What are other NGOs, governments, and companies doing globally to reduce the cost barrier for the internet? How do we align with them already, and how might we think about shifting?
  2. Investigate the opportunities for fully offline Wikimedia content. What are the best opportunities? How do existing solutions meet those needs, and where could they improve? How can we build programs with evaluation around those to pilot in the coming year? This work will be documented in the offline page and linked here.

Past projects[edit]

Web: Building mobile PDF support[edit]

Following 2 rounds of concept testing and evaluation, the Reading Web team built and deployed a PDF download on the mobile web for some browsers. See the task for implementation details: phab:T154964

To use this feature, navigate to any article on the mobile web from an Android device, using the Chrome browser. There is a download link next to the watch star. We hope to roll this feature out to all browsers, but that work is blocked on PDF rendering and some browser limitations.

Android: Expanding offline support[edit]

We're working with the Android team to expand the support of offline reading in the Wikipedia app. phab:T158667

This work was inspired by the research we conducted in 2016 and the proposal by User:Doc James on the Community Tech Wishlist.

See related quarterly goals on MediaWiki.

Product concepts[edit]

We developed 3 product concepts to support internal thinking around opportunities for fully offline support. Note that these are ideas that we considered internally, with no current intent to pursue them.


Through research in 2016, we learned that many people who are interested in using Wikipedia are not currently using it due to cost and access barriers. In our target countries, the cost of data would need to decrease as much as 97% to be generally affordable. Over a quarter of people we surveyed in Nigeria who are interested in reading Wikipedia reported that they weren’t able to due to the cost of data.


Phone surveys: We surveyed existing and potential readers to complement the design research work being conducted in these countries. The design research portion of this work consisted of personal, on-site interviews to gain a deeper understanding of their habits and limitations.


People are increasingly getting information online, then consuming or sharing it offline. (Finding 20)

Users are frequently moving what's online to offline for repeated viewing, printing, or sharing. These behaviors are growing along with the tools that make them possible.


  • Nigeria: “Sideloading” and music/video sharing are common practices among the digitally savvy, helping users save on data costs (especially when sharing large files) and making technology and media discovery more social. As a result, file-sharing apps (e.g. Xender) are very popular.
  • India: Offline modes of retaining and exchanging information are gaining popularity. Most commonly cited exchange apps are Xender, SHAREit, and ShareApp. Downloading to print information is another form of offline transfer. Downloading online content, including videos and songs to watch or listen to later, and school assignment materials to print for use or submission, is a widespread behavior. However, saving Wikipedia articles for later was not observed beyond one instance.
  • Mexico: [to be added?]


Personas are used in product development to ground ideas and implementation in real goals, desires, and limitations that we saw from interviews in the field research conducted in early 2016. We'll be using these personas to drive our strategies from design, messaging, and partnerships. We will be using the following personas

Industry analysis[edit]

The offline space is complex, and we've learned a lot. See the materials below for a summary of what we learned. You can see more detail at: New Readers/Industry analysis

See also[edit]