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Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2017/Sources/New Voices Synthesis report (July 2017)

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Over the past few months, we have expanded the voices participating in our global dialogue about what our movement should build or achieve together over the next 15 years. More than 150 conversations with experts on global issues with have taken place in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Latin America. On-the-ground research in Indonesia and Brazil has provided a deeper look into new ways people are sharing knowledge in these countries. Subject-specific desk research on political, social and economic trends that will affect the future of free knowledge gives us context on the future world in which we will be operating, and brand research in seven high-awareness countries gives us insight into Wikimedia’s relevance across populations. Together, these findings help us identify global trends and some of the key opportunities for us as a movement in this new world.

Overall insights from New Voices research and interviews[edit]

Knowledge sharing is highly social[edit]

  • Experts and research stressed that Wikipedia’s users today aren’t our users tomorrow. Young people -- a generation enabled by smartphones -- are the newest demographic to reach.[1]
  • A trend toward youth is especially true in Africa, the world’s youngest region, which is predicted to rejuvenate an aging global workforce with a supply of young consumers and college graduates due to a 15 percent population boom from 2015-2030.[2]
  • Experts say that they’re steeped in their use of social media and chat functionality, and that they prefer to share and discuss information through platforms they already know.[3][4]
  • In lower-awareness regions, getting information via messaging apps is seen as equivalent to information passed by word-of-mouth—just faster and through a broader network; though this hasn’t been seen in higher-awareness regions.[1] Information-seeking is becoming increasingly task- and search-led, and less discovery- and browsing-oriented.[1]
  • People in Indonesia and Brazil no longer expect their content to be mediated by “trusted institutions;” instead, research found that they want their content curated by trusted individuals.[1] In contrast, information from the United States and Western Europe cautioned against trusting in the self-cleaning mechanisms of community and showed continued interest in trusted institutions like museums and newspapers.[5][6]
  • The proportion of the global population in the age range of 15-64 that possesses no education is diminishing over time. At the same time, the percentage of the global population who are internet users will rise from 44 percent to 58 percent from 2016 to 2021.[7]

Future information technology could radically change how knowledge is created, processed and shared[edit]

  • Experts recommend that we use technology to better meet our users needs.[8] Machine translation, AI and structured data are some ways to curate and deliver relevant, reliable and local relevant content.[9] Research also showed improvements in AI could drive the rise of real-time, personalized education, information and entertainment services, including machine-generated music, news and storytelling.[10][11][7]
  • Experts believe Wikimedia should consider improving the user experience of Wikipedia and other projects in a way that appeals to the masses.[4] Research suggests that guided discovery and integration with major web properties will be increasingly important.[1][5]
  • For example, technology experts suggest that allowing people to interact with Wikipedia content on the Google knowledge panel, or curating channels by content area on widely-used instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram will become the most prevalent ways to exchange information.[12][4] New audio visual technologies could transform how people experience and share knowledge. Voice is beginning to replace typing in some contexts, which could impact how Wikipedia editors work.[10] Virtual reality focuses on visual, audio and tactile communication modes, and are largely interactive rather than participatory.

Movements are built on emotion and human connection[edit]

  • According to research, expert interviews, and group convenings, Wikipedia must do a better job of communicating its values and approach.[1][13][14][15]
  • There is a belief that Wikimedia should consider incentives to keep the movement engaged and growing. What motivates someone to participate in the movement, and how do we invite others to join?[14] Experts in Kenya believe people may be drawn to the idea of telling the stories of their own cultures and communities, but that it has to be positioned around tangible benefits or recognition. Rewards, badges, or other forms of validation can help, too.[4]
  • Creating a distinct and desirable sense of identity and positioning around the role of a Wikipedia contributor (and why you should volunteer to be one) might be a way to encourage more to participate.[4][16]

As learning platforms evolve, we will need to think beyond the encyclopedia in order to meet the needs of users[edit]

  • As people continue to adopt mobile devices and turn away from traditional text and toward creating and sharing video, audio, and visual multimedia content, pressure is growing on technology platforms to evolve.[7]
  • New content types and platforms like AI, virtual reality, and augmented reality have the potential to serve as content or topics for Wikimedia projects, as potential opportunities for distributing Wikimedia projects’ content, or as vehicles for spreading the ethos of open editing and sharing of content.[7]
  • Research and discussions with experts indicate that existing and future readers want a platform for learning that will extrapolate Wikipedia’s current encyclopaedic format and its western-centric norms.[1][17][16]
  • Experts from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East believe that the formal education system is failing youth in emerging markets around the world, and people are seeking new ways to consume and process knowledge online.[18]
  • Online knowledge-seekers are looking for short, compact and visual ways of engaging with content and acquiring new skills.[19] Wikipedia’s future users will need a platform that allows them to create and transfer knowledge in non-text formats, with a strong emphasis in oral and visual resources.[20]
  • Leaders in historically marginalized communities in the western world share similar concerns about current text based consumption on Wikipedia. The guidelines about who and what is cited does not often match with the cultural preservations systems in these communities.[16]

There’s a tradeoff between credibility and inclusivity[edit]

  • When discussing the quality of Wikipedia’s content, several expert conversations centered around the idea that the highest quality content may not coexist with new and inexperienced voices.
  • There were questions about how Wikipedia can be trusted and perceived as a credible source of knowledge while welcoming new users who don’t necessarily value unbiased reporting and the “highest quality” information.[21]
  • Research found that people not yet included in the Wikimedia movement treat online information as biased, and adapt how they validate and use information accordingly.[14] And although some people know Wikipedia is an editable platform, our research suggests that many do not think of the actual content as adaptable and expandable.[14]
  • Wikipedia’s open contribution model is poorly understood in markets where there’s low awareness, and this is therefore viewed as a weakness.[1]
  • Our findings suggest that inclusivity and new representation can only happen when there are lower barriers to entry, and that experienced users may need to accept less-than-perfect information in order to train and incorporate new users into the movement.[22]

Wikimedia should be an influencer in shaping world policy for access to knowledge[edit]

  • Experts see the potential of Wikimedia to become a platform for underserved audiences to access, create and preserve knowledge.[23][5][24][15] Some of those experts go as far as to argue for a stronger political approach ["Neutrality and silence is actually taking a political position"[23]].
  • Wikimedia is seen as a key to the unconnected users that are in need of offline options to access content. Playing a bigger role in the affordable internet debate has also been recommended, especially as we know that the cost of mobile data is still a connectivity barrier for low income users.[25][1]
  • Overall, there is a strong desire for free, accessible internet for all and Wikimedia is seen as a missing voice in that debate.[26][27]

We are stronger when we work together, but we need direction[edit]

  • Experts believe that Wikimedia should play a leadership role in the open ecosystem — and there is a particular need for a shared platform for the open knowledge community.[5] They believe we can be a better partner in building a digital knowledge base for cultural institutions (GLAMs) and work with other institutions invested in the future of information (media, academia, reference fields).[24]
  • There is an appetite for better coordination between open organizations (Creative Commons, Internet Archive) and cultural, scientific, and knowledge-based organizations generally.[28]

We need to be prepared for the risk of major societal and political changes in the future[edit]

  • Our orientation toward information as a society may change dramatically in the future (misinformation, disinformation, understanding of provenance, etc.).[29] Trust is not promised. Populism is rising globally again.[30][23]
  • Experts in Europe are pushing us to ask the question: what are the existential and reputational risks to Wikimedia? They believe Wikimedia may need to get more aggressive and political to respond.[23][5]

New Voices represented[edit]

Over the past couple of months, the Movement Strategy team has conducted and summarized one-on-one interviews and conducted curated discussions with over 230 influential individuals and changemakers across technology, business, media, social services, policy, education, and arts/culture. Experts hailed from over a dozen countries across Africa, Middle East, Asia, North America, Latin America, and Europe.

A representative breakdown for the experts according to sector and region is displayed in the graphs below. Total representation by country can be found in the Summary by Sources sections below.

Summary of 58 expert interviews[edit]

Over the past couple of months, the Movement Strategy team has conducted and summarized one-on-one interviews with 58 experts from India (9), Indonesia (12), Nigeria, Egypt (2), Brazil (4), Kenya (1), Nigeria (20), Mexico (2), South Africa (2), Thailand (2), Uganda (1), and the United States (3). Experts include journalists, government officials, technology entrepreneurs, educators, nonprofit leaders, and many others.

Initial themes and perspectives that emerged[edit]

Hub for information:[edit]

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. People see Wikipedia as a great jumping off point for any research, and believe that it is ‘undermining the knowledge monopoly’ by crowdsourcing information from anyone, anywhere. But Wikipedia must be better understood as a movement and has to come with the understanding that it's a fight, for a free and better world, that enhances democracy and ensures equality among human beings.[30]

Improve quality of content:[edit]

These experts believe that, in the future, Wikipedia has a responsibility to do four 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), 3) further its credibility and subsequent reputation (as it can sometimes be seen as ‘superficial’ in the depth of information it can provide) and 4) keep its information current. Collaboration with local content providers will also greatly enhance quality of content in emerging markets.[17]

Role of Wikipedia as free (and true) knowledge advocate:[edit]

The general consensus is that Wikipedia should play a leadership role in advocating for free knowledge, in collaboration with other like-minded organizations 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 the 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; it is important that Wikipedia not only serve the rich or the better-resourced of the world with accurate, neutral information. Some experts believe that Wikipedia’s role is to ‘connect the unconnected’ in rural areas -- with access to relevant information and an understanding of offline capabilities, Wikipedia should act as the bridge between knowledge and those who need it most. Communication is transformative and must be popularized as a bulwark against censorship. Some experts believed that we have to be very careful in today's world not to be neutral, but to be objective. At some points it's important for us to take sides because we cannot be on the wrong side and values are important in spreading of free knowledge.[30]

Knowledge Trends[edit]

  • The present and the near-future are embedded in mobile, and anything designed for any other platform is already obsolete. In 15 years, experts believe that the Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and AI driven devices will be the platforms of choice.
  • People will use social media to share information for the foreseeable future. The belief is that everything is now communal and the future for Wikipedia will be to allow credible, high-quality information to be shared on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Although radio still plays a significant role in growing awareness, people share the content of what they learn via social media. Future-forward think pieces and “how-to” tutorials are complements to the fact-based encyclopedia, and these will be the drivers of new online content.[17]
  • 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.
  • Access, awareness, and affordability remain the biggest barriers to the consumption of Wikipedia in these regions.
  • The formal education system is failing youth around the world, and everyone is seeking new ways to consume and process knowledge. Online learning is playing a role in democratizing knowledge, but this can go further.
  • Trust is crucial to creating community. Over time, editors can come to be known as trusted by the community. It is critical to create capacity -- something in line with the spirit of Wikipedia where community helps community -- but in a disciplined way through incentivization.[17]


  • Automation (especially related to machine learning and translation) will cause the most significant adaptation.
  • A text-only platform will 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).
  • Incorporating these medias into platforms like social media is the best path forward. The use of chat applications and video platforms are already being used to share, consume and produce information. Over the next 5-10 years, cutting-edge technology will only exacerbate the use of new platforms for content production and consumption.
  • Smartphones will be the primary device for consumption of information in an age where the internet is fast and there is a penchant for social and interconnected (and eventually where data and thus, information, are free).
  • Wikipedia needs to go beyond written knowledge and begin to think about audio and visual approaches to sharing and contributing information.

Summary of expert convenings (hosted by the Foundation and affiliates)[edit]

Over the past couple of months, the Movement Strategy team (and WM affiliates) have conducted curated discussions with influential individuals and changemakers in Lagos (18), Nairobi (5), Brussels (25), San Francisco (12), Chennai (22), Berlin (15), Warsaw (14), Mexico City (12), Abidjan (27), Santiago (14), New York (15), Tel Aviv (16), and Jakarta (16). We have also heard from experts and partners at the Skoll World Forum, the Creative Commons Summit, and the Internet Archive scenario planning retreat.

Experts have included journalists, government officials, technology entrepreneurs, educators, nonprofit leaders, and many others. Other guests included poets, feminist art historians, a web editor for the Africa Daily News, a museologist, a radio DJ, criminal attorneys, psychoanalysts, the President of OpenStreetMap Chile, and the Director of the National Security Project at the ACLU. Here are some of the initial themes and ideas that emerged from these conversations:

Challenges for Wikimedia[edit]

  • Lack of local relevant content is a major challenge in Africa. With over 2,000 languages, first-time internet users with limited digital literacy skills are forced to consume information in the major colonial languages. There is a general lack of exposure and access to indigenous content. There is also an infrastructure deficit (e.g. internet access) that hinders people from creating and accessing the content.[19]
  • There are deeply-entrenched cultural norms that hinder content creation. Kenya (and East Africa more broadly) is not effectively producing or documenting enough of their knowledge. Only 1% or internet users will create content online versus 90% that are engaging in other ways (e.g., likes, re-tweets, comments). In the future, the main issue is not going to be about access to the internet, but more about who curates the content on the internet for us. The African narrative has been hijacked: the story is being told on behalf of Africans and it is shaping a global worldview of the continent.[4] Additionally, there are no easy ways to encourage dissent; because of the high level of respect that elders and people in positions of authority demand in places like Nigeria, it is not easy to question the status quo when it is wrong or poorly informed.[19] Most of the people in Indonesia use the Internet mainly for consumption and rarely for content production.[31]
  • Engaging in quality journalism is dangerous and can be life-threatening in many places.[19] There is lack of freedom of information, compounded by the issue of censorship, freedom of the press, and the ongoing harassment of journalists in many countries.
  • Ownership of content is unclear. There’s a general lack of transparency, no clear rules of engagement in the digital space, and convoluted intellectual property rights that make content ownership murky. For example, the judicial system in Nigeria is weak and this enables intellectual property theft without fear of repercussions or punishment. As the movement adopts and advocates non-commercial open licenses for all the content it produces, there is a difficulty in forging collaboration with other institutions since they are still reluctant to waive some of their rights to freely share their contents.[31]
  • Wikipedia’s open platform causes people to question its truthfulness and verifiability. Both Mexicans and Brazilians were unsure about the "anyone can edit" model as a trustworthy source of information. Representatives from different public and private sectors, as well as civil society from different socioeconomic background and ages, primarily agree that the fact that anyone can add information immediately diminishes the trustworthiness of the information, despite rules in place to avoid fake content.[27] Media and civil society are heavily compromised, so news is consumed according to cognitive biases already.[19] Due to “post-fact” times, fair disputes are in danger and this might heavily affect Wikipedia by removing or diminishing scientific knowledge and replacing it with pseudoscience and popular common sense.[6]
  • There's an overall confusion between Wikimedia and Wikipedia.[27] Very few experts, workshop participants, or civil society participants who were interviewed knew what Wikimedia or the Wikimedia Foundation were, and were adamant that Wikimedia needed a better strategy to raise awareness about this differentiation in the future strategy. There is a low awareness of Wikipedia and its system; how it works, who can edit, and what is the model.[31] Visual branding is also important as recognition is based on 1) text and 2) colour -- Facebook Blue is a prime example.[24] There's also a negative association with the Wikipedia brand as people believe that it is "information that cannot be fully trusted," "information just for quick facts", or "something you can't use in school." Some experts in Brazil and Mexico also highlighted negative associations with other names, such as Wikileaks, which were damaging Wikipedia's brand in their countries. A suggestion to curb this was to create an information authority -- a body that rates and audits news platforms and the authenticity of their stories monthly.[19]
  • “Instant” and “fake” news from other providers makes potential users wary of Wikipedia. The biggest challenge for information in the future is the massive amount of information to which people are exposed to, and how that could be a power of control by major influencers.[27] All over the world, Wikipedia needs to be cognizant that its platform is a fight for truth for younger generations.[16]
  • The traditional knowledge ecosystem is facing a big disruption. With the rise of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and other forms of OER (Open Educational Resources), the knowledge ecosystem has been reinvented. Universities are no longer the only knowledge producer and Wikipedia may be seen as a deviation and unreliable, resulting in more limited usage in the future.[31] The challenge of Wikipedia today is to break through the world of authorization and offer curriculum and certification to circumvent the limitations of the universities - so that anyone can get a degree.[32]

The role of technology[edit]

  • Experts in Brussels, Mexico, and Brazil, were aligned in the need of Wikipedia to move towards current and future technologies that are commonly used to access information -- more specifically audio and video; this applies not only to reading, but editing.[31] This relates to the opportunity identified in the Brazil design research, as it shows that video was the preferred source of information and educational content for most people, highlighting the lack of this kind of media on Wikipedia.
  • Technology can act as a tool in the experience of exploring knowledge. Wikipedia needs to move beyond text and reading and into interactive media like oral, instant information (a la Google glass) and multimedia (virtual study guides, etc).[24][26] Learning will be more individualized, self-directed and customised in the future. In the next 15 years, a person will decide for him- or herself how and when they want to learn, the length of the lesson, and breakpoints and pattern of what the program or course will be.[19] Wikipedia should consider investing in tools that will enable people to be smarter in communicating with Wikipedia and meet different needs (for example, answering specific questions, discovering how-to guides and trainings).[32]
  • Massive innovations in automation will minimize the human role in article creation but consideration must be given to human intelligence over artificial intelligence.[24] Technology can be a catalyst for improving the education system, but it cannot replace the value that good teachers bring to students. Technology (without proper training) can exaggerate financial problems.[4] A synergy must be created between automation and artificial intelligence.[32]
  • Over the next 15 years, Wikimedia must adopt mobile-friendly strategies. Wikipedia could use APIs to release information such as sortable tables for integration.[24]
  • We must protect the most vulnerable through anonymity. While it’s nice to know the relevant demographic information for editors and readers, it is also important to remember that anonymity is necessary for those who have the most to lose by accessing free knowledge.[16]

The role of Wikipedia in the future[edit]

  • Experts also agreed on the need for Wikimedia to be more political. "Neutrality and silence is actually taking a political position," and they believed that Wikimedia should have a stronger political approach to defend open knowledge.[23] There should be an effort to take a more active role in issues that are necessary to operate Wikipedia (e.g., copyright, censorship, access).[26]
  • Wikipedia should publicly highlight the value of the internet as a “universal, free service.”[23]
  • Expert opinions are worth incorporating. Some forecasting and predictions could be brought into the existing content to enhance its credibility. Experts can answer questions posed by users on platforms like Quora.[24]
  • Wikimedia should think of content as a conduit for shaping world policy. “Correct the collection of knowledge with social and environmental objectives.” WMF can act as a lobbying agent for open source knowledge with the government.
  • Wikipedia should take an active role in spreading true knowledge for public good. Open and free access to information continues to be the main point of Wikipedia. NGOs in particular were adamant on how information should be protected against monopolies, dictatorial regimes, and political influences that are negatively affecting how people consume and create information.[27] In Indonesia, the internet is not decentralized and more than half of providers are privately owned. Democratisation of knowledge where everyone has equal access to information is very important and should take into account those who currently lack access to the internet.[31]
  • Wikipedia should play an active role in preserving knowledge, both with an eye toward audience (whose knowledge are we prioritizing?), local relevance, oral and non-written traditions, and the inclusive growth of languages in the Global South without script.[24] Things that once existed on the internet may disappear, so one thing that Wikipedia could do is to work as an archive.[26] Improving verifiability and quality of Wikipedia should not sacrifice undocumented local knowledge, especially that with an oral tradition.[31]
  • The movement needs to expand its definition of knowledge to include cultural sources of knowledge outside of the west to avoid knowledge bias.[16]

How to attract new users[edit]

  • Current barriers to entry are too high. Fresh blood cannot bypass a wall of exclusivity created by the current community of editors: internal hierarchy, bots, checked versions, disappointment after first -- usually reverted -- edits. There is no motivation for younger generations to create something that has always “existed” for them, especially when they aren’t being supported once they try to generate content.[6]
  • Wikipedia should target younger users. We should ask the younger generation how they want to participate in Wikimedia projects and organize free space in which they can safely express themselves rather than forcing them to adapt to the current ecosystem of Wikimedia projects.[6] The younger audience is looking for brief, take-away news. We must look for ways to simultaneously cater to them without diluting our offering to existing users.[24] We can encourage the younger generation to participate by investing in their technology skills, enabling them to document and disseminate.[19]
  • Create a platform for learning, not simply a repository of knowledge. Other apps are fundamentally changing the way we learn; tools like Google take much of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to search results. In order to really engage users with the Wikipedia platform, more must be done to curate an accessible learning “journey.”[4]
  • Improve user experience in a way that appeals to the masses. For example, allow people to interact with Wikipedia content on the Google knowledge panel, and to curate channels by content area on instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.[4] The advantage of Wikipedia might not be in creating new content but rather by summarizing and linking the current content combined with a fast reaction to changes in the world.[6]
  • Create a stronger sense of identity and positioning around Wikipedia editors. Blogging is no longer about passion -- there are material incentives in place. People may be drawn to the idea of telling their own stories, but it has to be positioned around tangible benefits or recognition.[4] Gamification or other forms of validation can help to achieve this.[4]
  • Invest in training and mentorship. We should consider creating crowdfunded opportunities for news content, and increasing trainings for young people interested in the field of journalism -- a place where people can be trained, where they can standardize professionalism and skill, and earn an income and share ideas.[19]

Developing Partnerships[edit]

  • Tapping into archives and libraries for partnerships will help ensure the preservation of knowledge.[33][5][32]
  • Partnering with institutions for educational programs that deal in Wikipedia and its sister projects is important for better platform awareness.[24]
  • Partnerships should be forged with media companies to provide internet access to hard-to-reach citizens and encourage ubiquitous participation in media.[19]
  • Teacher training is vital to changing the educational system; educators should be better equipped with technology.[19]

Summary of key opportunities & findings: Indonesia & Brazil design research[edit]

This summary captures key findings from Movement Strategy New Voices (formerly Track D) research conducted in Indonesia and Brazil in May 2016 by the research firm, Reboot.[34] Here were some of the themes that emerged:

Establishing trust[edit]

  • There is less of a role for neutral reporting. The trustworthiness of a piece of information (or its source) doesn’t necessarily determine its utility. Young people especially assume that most information online is biased, and they adapt how they validate and/or use information accordingly.
  • Those with low awareness of Wikipedia don’t demonstrate mistrust in Wikipedia’s content. They have few-to-no trust issues with the information that they find on the website.

Broader awareness of Wikipedia[edit]

  • Although many people knew Wikipedia is an editable platform, they do not think of the actual content as adaptable and expandable.
  • Most respondents believed that Wikipedia was run by a for-profit technology company—and one that lacked transparency.
  • Wikipedia’s open contribution model is poorly understood, and therefore viewed as a weakness. Wikipedia must do a better job of communicating its values and how those fit into its model.

Knowledge trends[edit]

  • Information-seeking is becoming increasingly task- and search-led, and less discovery- and browsing-oriented.
  • People no longer expect their content to be mediated by “trusted institutions;” instead, they want their content curated by trusted individuals. Brands like the BBC, National Geographic and others are trusted for content creation but people no longer rely on them for curation and distribution. Digital influencers are now the new mediators of content.
  • Getting information via messaging apps is seen as equivalent to information passed on by word-of-mouth—just faster and through a broader network.
  • Both Brazilians and Indonesians are highly comfortable with using translation tools and apps to make the most of their online experience.

Technology trends[edit]

  • Visual, real-time, and social aren’t just buzzwords; research found that they are the characteristics of content platforms that young people increasingly prefer.
  • Mobile-first users tend to be heavier users of apps, particularly those whose usage is discounted or free. This typically means messaging or social network apps. Over time, this impacts how they understand and are able to navigate the internet.
  • Cost of mobile data is a barrier to getting connected for low income users. A recent PwC study found that mobile data costs need to decrease by 65% in Indonesia and 68% in Brazil for it to be generally affordable.

Developing partnerships[edit]

  • Moving forward, Wikimedia should consider attracting and investing in allies and community members that focus not on just generating content (which is the focus of the community today), but on getting it out to people in the forums and channels they like to learn.
  • Moving forward, the movement should consider partnerships to help a) expand digital access and literacy, and b) to improve the accessibility of its content.

Summary of research briefings on major trends by Dot Connector Studio and Lutman & Associates[edit]

Briefing 1: Considering 2030: Misinformation, verification, and propaganda[35][edit]

In considering challenges Wikimedia will need to address with respect to misinformation over the next 10–15 years, it is important to keep in mind the three major global influencers of technology, governments and politics, and commerce, and how they relate to content (trends that can affect the actual sources used by Wikimedians to develop reliable information) and access (how and whether Wikipedia users are able to use the platform).

Technology creates many opportunities for information to be created via new means, such as AI, bots, big data, and virtual reality. The unprecedented surge in automation of knowledge creation and analysis brings both advantages and challenges. On the plus side, these tools are helping information producers, but the development of new tools can also lead to more misleading content that could pose challenges when sourcing entries.[36] In response, between now and 2030, the Wikimedia movement will need to remain vigilant and to develop new methods of verification that match these new technological capabilities. Technology also presents myriad obstacles to accessing the content served up on Wikimedia platforms, as the trend toward mobile is rapidly challenging the web-based, computer-accessed model for Wikipedia.[37] In addition, there are new means of content delivery, such as wearables, immersive rigs, and voice-activated digital assistants.

Governments and political actors have the power to both suppress and distort content by persecuting activists, journalists, academics, and other citizens, and to restrict access to Wikimedia platforms. Such government repression not only reduces source material for Wikipedia editors, but can also result in an overall chilling effect on freedom of expression for those seeking to produce or verify information. A related trend among governments and political actors is purposeful propagation of disinformation or propaganda. This not only weakens sources and therefore content on Wikipedia, but creates an overall culture of doubt related to the reliability of online information. With respect to access, primary challenges will be in censoring/blocking the Wikipedia platform, blocking online access altogether, and monitoring online access.

Commerce. The rise of commercial social media platforms over the last decade, and the concurrent decline of and trust in traditional modern news sources, creates concerns about new ways that misinformation is being filtered and delivered online and used in public discourse, especially with respect to sponsored research, advertorials, hired shills, and clickbait content. The next frontier in understanding how to combat misinformation involves developing a more sophisticated grasp on how networks help to spread it and may involve ubiquitous fact-checking.[38] Threats to access come from battles over net neutrality, filter bubbles, the rise of proprietary apps and platforms, and corporations’ willingness (or unwillingness) to provide access to Wikipedia content from within their own content properties and devices.

Briefing 2: Considering 2030: Future technology trends that will impact the Wikimedia movement[7][edit]

As people continue to adopt mobile devices and turn away from traditional text and toward creating and sharing video, audio, and visual multimedia content, pressure is growing on technology platforms to evolve. Based on a once-revolutionary and disruptive concept, Wikipedia and most of its sister projects are now facing challenges familiar to other legacy media institutions: how to adapt to new user habits and expectations and take advantage of emerging technology.


The adoption and penetration of mobile devices is well on its way around the world. Interestingly, one of the barriers to adoption that this report cites is a lack of local content.[39] For the Wikimedia movement, this means there’s still time to catch up, by focusing on developing mobile solutions and new partnerships that can reach and engage mobile contributors and users in countries still coming online—building on the existing strength of maintaining both a local and global presence.

Emerging Platforms and Content Types[edit]

Each of these new content types and platforms below has the potential to serve as competition for the attention and time of Wikimedia project users, as content or topics for Wikimedia projects, as potential opportunities for distributing Wikimedia projects’ content, or as vehicles for spreading the ethos of open editing and sharing of content.

1. Lots of bots: AI, virtual personal assistants, interactive toys

Innovations in AI can also change the way that knowledge is gathered, assembled, and synthesized. We may find that human crowdsourcing of knowledge and information—the heart and soul of the Wikimedia movement—was only one step along the way to computer-assisted analysis. Editors’ roles might morph to setting the rules and checking the creation of knowledge by automated systems rather than original writing and research.

2. Virtual Reality: for news, education and gaming

Like bot-driven interfaces, VR experiences have the potential to change users’ expectations about how, why and where to seek out news, information and entertainment, and how they will interact once they do. By collaborating with other movements and organizations seeking to democratize these technologies, the Wikimedia movement could find new relevance and reach.

3. Other devices: Augmented Reality (AR), ubiquitous screens, wearables, the Internet of things

Visual forms of augmented reality (AR)—which superimposes computer-generated images on users’ view of the world through devices such as mobile phones, tablets, eyewear or projections—have already proven to be popular. AR applications and devices could help support Wikimedia’s mission—serving up relevant definitions and location information when users point their phones at an object or landmark.

4. Off the grid: Analog’s not dead yet

The Wikimedia Foundation’s New Readers team has already been exploring possible formats for offline access to Wikipedia, including mobile PDFs, digital classroom systems, solar-powered terminals, pre-loaded apps and more. However, this does not preclude the possibility that better-curated data sets could be distributed via more aesthetically pleasing analog forms.

Briefing 3: Demographics[2][edit]


Regionally, Africa boasts the highest predicted growth rate of any region from 2015 to 2030 with a projected 40 percent increase, equivalent to nearly 470 million people.[40] Though Asia and Africa are the least urbanized regions in 2015, they are expected to experience the fastest rates of urbanization.[41] Africa’s expected population swell and rapid rates of urbanization will likely thrust it into the center of global affairs, but its impact on rejuvenating an aging global workforce[42] will depend on whether more adults on the continent will be able to find full-time employment.[43]

Aging Population

The world is anticipated to experience a reduction in the percentage of the population that resides in the workforce age range of 15-64. Attributed to decreased fertility, Europe and Northern America are predicted to undergo substantial decreases in their workforce population proportions, dropping approximately 5-6 percent each.[44]


The proportion of the global population in the age range of 15-64 that possesses no education is diminishing over time.[45] By 2030, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to have the largest decrease in relative uneducated population, with an expected reduction of 10% over the next 15 years. Additionally, the proportion of the global population that is literate will increase from 83 percent to 90 percent between 2015 and 2030.[46]

Access to Technology

A Cisco generated report suggests that the percentage of the global population who are internet users will rise from 44 percent to 58 percent from 2016 to 2021.[47] Mobile data traffic is expected to increase 7-fold worldwide from 2016-2021. This growth rate is twice as fast as fixed IP traffic over the same time period.

Key Takeaways

Wikimedia must accommodate the population boom in Africa. Accommodations for Arabic-speaking countries in Northern Africa should be considered as the region is forecasted to experience a sizeable growth rate and there is an under-representation of Arabic articles and contributors on Wikimedia pages. Moreover, given Africa’s expected literacy improvements, access to information technology will play a monumental role in the growth of the region.

The expected growth rate of China, though low, is predicted to contribute approximately 52 million Chinese to the global population. As China enjoys upward trending economic growth over the next 15 years, so too may Mandarin enjoy increased influence as a language of business.[48] Mandarin is the most spoken language globally, but Mandarin articles are the 15th most abundant on Wikimedia. There is an underrepresentation of Mandarin-fluent contributors on Wikimedia as well; Mandarin ranks only 8th in number of contributors.

Summary of Wikipedia Awareness, Attitudes and Usage Survey (July 2017)[edit]

The summary below captures a few key insights from the Wikipedia Awareness, Attitudes and Usage survey conducted by Wellspring Insights & Innovation Inc in June and July 2017. The study ran online in seven countries and was designed in collaboration with staff across Wikimedia Foundation. The research was designed to gain a better quantitative understanding of the current state of the Wikimedia Movement in the countries where its most popular project, Wikipedia, is most popular.

For a detailed overview please visit the dedicated research page, which includes the raw data, individual country reports, and the stand alone executive summary. All the details below are pulled from the sources accessed at this page.

Key Excerpts[edit]


  • Across the seven countries, close to 80% of internet users are aware of Wikipedia when shown the logo. Spain has the highest awareness (89%) and Japan has the lowest (64%).
  • When asked “when you want to find information online what three websites do you go to most often,” Google (85% on average) is the top answer followed by Wikipedia (45%), YouTube (43%), Yahoo! (19%) and Facebook (17%).
  • Overall, 20% first found out about Wikipedia on the internet and 20% through school. There are generational differences, though: 35% of 13-19 year old internet users say they first heard about it in school, while 73% of 36-49 year old internet users say online.


  • Across all seven countries, internet users that are aware of Wikipedia associate it most strongly with “free knowledge for every person” (8.5 out of 10) and “useful” (8.3 out of 10). They associate Wikipedia least strongly with “neutral, unbiased content” (7.0) and “transparency” (6.9). There are strong generational differences, with 13-19 year olds giving Wikipedia lower association scores on most attributes.
  • When asked what is most important to those internet users that are aware of Wikipedia, the highest attributes are “useful,” “free knowledge for every person” and “easy to read.” What’s least important is “transparency” and “free of advertising.”
  • Across generations there is also broad agreement that “more trustworthy content” (57%), “higher quality content” (51%), “more neutral content” (44%), and “more visual content” (41%) would enhance their personal experience “a lot.”


  • Proportionately, Wikipedia finds its strongest audience in Spain where 91% of internet users 13-49 are aware of it and 89% read it. This compares to the average of internet users across all countries, 84.1% are aware of it and 81.1% read it.
  • By country, 75% of Wikipedia readers in Russia and 73% in Spain read Wikipedia weekly or more. Twenty-four percent of Russian and Spanish readers read daily. The lowest weekly readership is found in Japan and the UK (60% of readers each).
  • Overall, about half of Wikipedia readers access the site “often” from a desktop or laptop, or a smartphone. Readers ages 13-35 are much more likely to say they access Wikipedia often from a smartphone, and readers 13-19 years old are the most likely to say they often access Wikipedia through a service such as Siri or Alexa (21% of 13-19 year olds vs. 10% of 36-49 year olds).

Further reading[edit]

Indonesia & Brazil Design Research (Reboot)

Expert Convenings

1:1 Expert Interviews

External Sources


  1. a b c d e f g h i Summary of Key Opportunities & Findings: Indonesia & Brazil
  2. a b Considering 2030: Demographic Shifts – How might Wikimedia extend its reach by 2030?
  3. Expert interviews, line 4, line 5, line 7, line 9
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k Kenya strategy salon with technology experts - May 29, 2017
  5. a b c d e f Berlin Strategy Salon - March 29, 2017
  6. a b c d e Wikimedia Poland affiliate-led expert salon - June 5, 2017
  7. a b c d e Considering 2030: Future technology trends that will impact the Wikimedia movement (July 2017)
  8. Summary of Key Opportunities & Findings: Indonesia & Brazil
  9. Berlin Strategy Salon - March 29, 2017
  10. a b Mary Meeker, "Internet Trends Report 2017". Kleiner Perkins. May 31, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2017.
  11. Amy Webb, “2017 Tech Trends Annual Report”. Future Today Institute, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2017.
  12. Expert interviews, line 7, line 16, line 35
  13. Strategy Salon Dinner NYC - May 30, 2017; Berlin Strategy Salon - March 29, 2017
  14. a b c d San Francisco Strategy Salon - March 2, 2017
  15. a b Washington, DC, strategy salon with US policy experts and leaders - June 22, 2017
  16. a b c d e f Strategy Salon Dinner NYC - May 30, 2017
  17. a b c d Bill Drayton, social enterprise expert, interviewed by Ed Bland, June 6, 2017
  18. Expert interviews, line 24, line 33
  19. a b c d e f g h i j k Nigeria Strategy Dinners Day 1, Day 2 , Day 3
  20. Expert interviews, line 9, line 10, line 35
  21. Expert interviews, line 30, line 48
  22. Brand awareness, attitudes, and usage - Executive Summary
  23. a b c d e f Brussels Movement Strategy Dinner - March 29, 2017
  24. a b c d e f g h i j India expert workshop - June 1, 2017
  25. Expert interviews, line 35
  26. a b c d Wikimedia Chile - strategy meet-up in Santiago - June 6, 2017
  27. a b c d e Mexico expert workshop - May 17, 2017
  28. Berlin Strategy Salon - March 29, 2017; NYC Dinner #2 (to be posted)
  29. Economist, July 1, 2017
  30. a b c Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian politician, interviewed by Jorge Vargas, June 8, 2017
  31. a b c d e f g Wikimedia Indonesia Strategy Salon July 11th, 2017
  32. a b c d Wikimedia Israel Salon Strategy Dinner - July 17, 2017
  33. Wikimedia Community User Côte d'Ivoire Strategy Meetup - June 10, 2017
  34. Indonesia research findings draft May 2017
  35. Considering 2030: Misinformation, verification, and propaganda
  36. Bilton, Nick. “Fake news is about to get even scarier than you ever dreamed”. Vanity Fair, January 26, 2017. Accessed May 30, 2017.
  37. GSMA. “The Mobile Economy 2017”. Accessed June 1, 2017.
  38. The Hypothesis Project. “To Enable a Conversation Over the World’s Knowledge: Hypothesis Mission”. Accessed 22 May 2017.
  39. "Global Mobile Consumer Trends: 1st Edition". Deloitte, 2016. Accessed June 27, 2017.
  40. Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision”. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Accessed Jun 15, 2017.
  41. Population 2030”. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2015. Accessed June 11, 2017.
  42. Hinshaw, Drew. “For a Growing Africa, Hope Mingles With Fear of the Future”. The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2015. Accessed July 12, 2017.
  43. Mudele, Kolawole. “Despite Nigeria’s Economic Growth, Few Have ‘Good Jobs’”. Gallup, November 11, 2013. Accessed July 13, 2017.
  44. Lee, Ronald, and Andrew Mason. “The Price of Maturity: Aging Populations Mean Countries Have to Find New Ways to Support Their Elderly.” Finance & Development 48.2 (2011): 6–11. Print.
  45. Barro, Robert J. and Lee, Jong-Wha. “Projections of Educational Attainment by Country”. Accessed June 25, 2017.
  46. Country Profile.” International Futures. Accessed June 25, 2017.
  47. Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2016-2021”. Cisco, June 6, 2017. Accessed June 25, 2017.
  48. The Future Language of Business: English vs. Mandarin”. Digital Jungle, February 26, 2015. Accessed June 25, 2017.