The New Readers project had an initial pilot of six focus countries: Nigeria, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and Egypt, which were identified through a series of workshops with internal stakeholders. Now that we're moving from the research phase into implementation, we'll continue to target a few pilot countries from that initial list. Beyond that, we'd also like to have a larger list of countries to guide future work.
Historically, the Foundation has used the Global South/Global North to focus work efforts and measure traffic related to low resource/high resource environments. It's a classification that was developed by the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations. This definition is problematic in a lot of ways, and some members of the Wikimedia community have been speaking out against it for years. The New Readers team is committed to classifying countries in a way that makes more sense.
As we move away from the "global south" list of countries, we want to develop a classification and target our efforts around countries in a way that's relevant to our context - places we believe free knowledge and Wikimedia's mission can address an unmet need.
Members of the New Readers team from Reading and Global Reach have narrowed in on wanting our list to reflect target countries where access to knowledge and/or education is limited. We believe that this will focus us on places where Wikimedia content can address gaps in (free) knowledge.
We'd like your input to make sure we're focusing on the right factor for this targeting.
Choosing an index
To build the list of target countries, we want to use a specific metric that measures the factors that we believe are in our mission to address.
Most existing indices focus on economic growth, particularly around GDP and poverty. Although these can be important, we think these are incomplete for the Wikimedia use case, since our mission is about disseminating free knowledge globally. Instead, we wanted to look for a way to group countries by their access to knowledge and information along different dimensions.
The Social Progress Imperative is creating indices that reflect social progress in an attempt to make it as important as economic growth. The Social Progress Index is used actively in the international development industry and pulls together a wide range of sources.
For Wikimedia Foundation research, we would like to use the SPI component "Access to Basic Knowledge". This combines the following:
- Adult literacy rate
- Primary school enrollment
- Lower secondary school enrollment
- Upper secondary school enrollment
- Gender parity in secondary enrollment
We think this makes sense for Wikimedia's work because they fall in line with our mission statement: to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. We want to get the world's information into the hands of those who are without it, and we believe this index would allow us to focus those efforts more effectively.
What do you think?
Do this index make sense to you? If so, how can we apply it to our work identifying areas to grow readership of Wikimedia projects? If not, which indices would work better for this?
Once we agree on the factors we'll use to segment the regions of the world, we can build a list to classify those countries that are in scope for the New Readers work. These will be places with relatively limited access to education and knowledge.
Within that segment, we can prioritize our efforts according to some of the factors listed below and develop metrics to measure our impact in those regions.
Discussions and updates
- November 18, 2016: Zack, Anne and Joe spoke with Sunil Abraham and Tanveer Hasan A.K., Executive Director and Programme Manager respectively at CIS-A2K in Bangalore, India.
Other options considered
These are options that we considered as using to create the list, but ultimately decided were either irrelevant, out of our control, or barriers we may try to address in our solutions.
- Wikimedia projects performance. We could segment the countries along our performance relative to internet access in order to maximize growth. We rejected this because growth on its own does not fulfill our mission.
- Development indicators. There are many indicators used for poverty, economic growth, and other generalized "development." While these factors definitely play a role in access to resources such as internet and education, we aren't directly trying to change prosperity, access to healthcare, etc. Some examples:
- Mobile Connectivity Index by the GSMA, or some subset of their indicators. Initially, we thought we could define our target countries by access/connectivity by mobile. On further consideration, this is something we can use to help us understand countries better, rather than drive our work.
- The Web Index. The Web Index was a project by The World Wide Web Foundation that measured the impact of the internet on social, political, and economic progress. Unfortunately, they stopped updating it in 2015 so it won't stay relevant for very long. We'd like to build our work on something that will continue to evolve as the world does.
- Digital skills / digital literacy. We considered that maybe we should focus our work on places where digital skills were improving in order to reach people who are just coming online. This isn't exactly our mission, and the index doesn't really exist. There is some ongoing work by Mozilla, among others, to quantify this, but it hasn't reached maturity to serve us yet.
- Building our own index. We want to make sure that the way we segment relies on solid sources, is easy to understand, and is chosen transparently. Building some index that pulls together many of the factors we considered would be difficult to build, communicate, and understand.
Relevant studies & reports
We looked at the way others are approaching this kind of work in order to inform our thinking. Here's some of what we found.
- GSMA: Mobile Connectivity Index 2016 Report: Measures key enablers of mobile internet connectivity in 134 countries. One of the 4 key enablers is "Content", and interestingly, they use Wikipedia edits and accessible WP articles as part of their metric.
- GSMA/Mozilla Study: Has information on coverage of mobile in some New Readers countries, and attempts to understand digital literacy.
- Facebook's State of Connectivity Report 2015: Facebook's support and thinking for Internet.org. While we know Facebook's mission is not ours, this report has great information on affordability, infrastructure, and content.
- Alliance for the Affordable Internet (A4AI) - Affordability report 2016: A4AI, part of the Web Foundation, is the current policy leader in analyzing affordability to be online.
- UN/ITU: Measuring the information society report 2015: Includes ICT development indexes, and prices and affordability of ICTs. The report reveals that 3.2 billion people are now online, representing 43.4% of the global population, while mobile-cellular subscriptions have reached almost 7.1 billion worldwide, with over 95% of the global population now covered by a mobile-cellular signal.