WikiConference India 2011/Submissions/Offline Wikipedia on Low-Cost Devices

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18:12, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Title of the submission

Offline Wikipedia on Low-Cost Devices

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, or presentation)


Author of the submission

Bill Thies

E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences)

State of your origin (Country, if you are not based in India)


Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)

Microsoft Research India

Personal homepage or blog

Abstract (maximum 500 words)

In low-income communities, it remains difficult to access Wikipedia due to a lack of computers and Internet access. However, there are other devices that can be used to provide access, including mobile phones, TVs, and DVD players. This talk will describe recent work at Microsoft Research India to improve the accessibility of Wikipedia by making offline versions available on common, low-cost devices.

In the first part of this talk, we will describe how ordinary TVs and DVD players can be used to browse Wikipedia content, by leveraging the interactive features of DVDs. Using the DVD remote control, users can accomplish all of the major functions available in a Web browser, including navigation, hyperlinks, and search. We have mapped the entirety of to a double-sided DVD, encompassing 5,500 articles and 259,000 screens. Our studies show that the system remains easy to use, while extending the benefits of Wikipedia to populations that lack access to computers.

In the second part of the talk, we will present a new system for browsing Wikipedia content from low-end mobile phones. While several Wikipedia readers exist for smart phones, to date there has not been any solution for simple feature phones, which dominate the market in India. Our system relies on J2ME programmability, and leverages advanced compression to enable all of to fit within a 2 GB flash card. We do not require any Internet connectivity, as all data is stored locally on the phone. This enables unlimited usage in low-income settings where users are often very sensitive to the costs of mobile Internet access.

While we are still developing each of our solutions, in the future we plan to release them freely to the Wikipedia community. We look forward to interacting with the community during this event, to understand how technologies such as ours can most benefit the outreach of Wikipedia in India and other emerging economies.

Track (Community/Knowledge/Outreach/Technology)


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Slides or further information (optional)

Some of this work was presented at the 2011 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The corresponding paper and presentation slides are available online.
Offline Wikipedia on Low-Cost Devices.pdf