Over the past couple of months, Wikimedia Foundation Global Reach team has conducted and summarized interviews with more than 20 expert interviews from India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil, and Mexico. Experts have included journalist, government officials, technology entrepreneurs, educators, non-profit leaders, and many others. Here were some of the initial themes that emerged:
Hub for information: When discussing the role that Wikipedia plays in the world and can play in the future, the most prevalent theme was that today Wikipedia is the go-to source for information – it is comprehensive and (mostly) credible. Experts believe that Wikipedia is an expansive hub of information that provides people with answers and then launches them into an improved state (whether in an individual conversation, on a school paper, or in their employment) based on having been able to access that readily-available knowledge. It is noted in the interviews that there is a certain amount of credibility and trust that comes from content that is from local contributors.
Improve quality of content: In the future, these experts believe that Wikipedia has a responsibility to do three things in order to improve the quality of its content: 1) remain neutral in its perspective, 2) expand its reach to solve ‘knowledge poverty’ (through improved outreach to new communities and through new mediums of conveying information) and 3) further its credibility and subsequent reputation (as it can sometimes be seen as ‘superficial’ in the depth of information it can provide).
Role of Wikipedia as free knowledge advocate: The general consensus is that Wikipedia should play a leadership role in advocating for free knowledge, in collaboration with others in the ecosystem. Some implied that Wikipedia exists in a bubble and instead should be a well-networked player with broad reach so that it has leverage to lead a global conversation around free knowledge. Other themes included the integrity and accuracy of Wikipedia’s content and lowering barriers to access and participation on the platform in order to improve the quality of knowledge available.
Knowledge trends: When asked about larger trends related to the world of knowledge (like access, usage, and sharing), some clear themes emerged:
(1) The future is embedded in mobile, and that anything designed for any other platform will soon be obsolete.
(2) People will use social media to share information for the foreseeable future. The belief is that everything is communal now and that by allowing credible, high-quality information to be shared on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram is the future for the platform.
(3) Youth will drive these changes. Experts noted that this age group is growing exponentially and will have the greatest influence on knowledge consumption behaviors and related policies going forward.
(4) Access, awareness, and affordability remain the biggest barriers to the consumption of Wikipedia in these regions.
Technology: In conversation about the role technology will play for Wikipedia in the future, experts generally agreed that:
(1) Automation (especially related to machine learning and translation) would cause the most significant adaptation.
(2) A text-only platform would be limiting given that the future is seemingly based in images, videos, and audio files and all knowledge needs to be consumable (including oral and visual histories).
(3) Incorporating these medias into platforms like social media is the best path forward.
(4) Smartphones will be the primary device for consumption of information, where the internet is fast and the penchant is social and interconnected (and eventually where data and thus, information, are free).