Grants:IdeaLab/Offline Wikipedia deployment in Syria

statusNot funded
IEG key blue.png
Offline Wikipedia deployment in Syria
Deploy devices containing Kiwix offline Wikipedia to community centers in Syria
targetKurdish, Arabic, and English Wikipedia
start year2017
end year2017
budget (USD)2000
grant typetools and software
created on12:34, 24 February 2017 (UTC)

Project ideaEdit

What is the problem you're trying to solve?Edit

What problem are you trying to solve by doing this project? This problem should be small enough that you expect it to be completely or mostly resolved by the end of this project. Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

Internet infrastructure in Syria is unreliable and expensive. Massive displacement and fragmented families highlight the need for connectivity. Children, whose education has been stifled by the conflict must now compete in an ever-more-connected global economy. Access to the information and resources we take for granted in the West can be transformative in the region Additionally, the Kurdish language is under-served in Syria as state policy, meaning that the Kurdish wikipedia is under-populated and under-utilized.

Addressing the entire problem is not possible but in this project we seek to provide offline Wikipedia to several community centers in one city in Syria. This hardware will connect to the internet via cellular infrastructure (with data costs partially funded by the grant), provide up-to-date access to Wikipedia, and begin the long process of building out local internet infrastructure. By bringing in offline, cached copies of wikipedia, we can reduce data costs in a region that should be worrying about anything else.

What is your solution?Edit

For the problem you identified in the previous section, briefly describe your how you would like to address this problem. We recognize that there are many ways to solve a problem. We’d like to understand why you chose this particular solution, and why you think it is worth pursuing. Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

Preloading content on offline devices connected to mesh networking can be a way for communities of people to have a local intranet for sharing content with each other. This project will deploy Raspberry Pis with Kiwix offline Wikipedia in English and Arabic to community centers in one city in Syria. This will be in partnership with an existing community of mesh network users. Along with the deployment the project seeks to provide enough information for people to use the software and to give some community leaders a tutorial on using the system to read Wikipedia.

Finally, sharing the outcomes of this project is an important part of getting broader impact. Collecting survey information and photos of local people participating in the project makes for an inspiring story for Wikipedia fans internationally, because this project is a demonstration of an option for sharing Wikipedia in places with limited Internet access. Journalism is an important part of the solution to access to Wikipedia and online resources generally, so this project will seek to publish an article of the outcomes targeted to a general audience.

Project goalsEdit

What are your goals for this project? Your goals should describe the top two or three benefits that will come out of your project. These should be benefits to the Wikimedia projects or Wikimedia communities. They should not be benefits to you individually. Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

  1. Deploy 10 Raspberry Pis which distribute Wikipedia and other free educational content
  2. Recruit at least 20 local people to use the content and complete a survey about it
  3. Take photographs of the neighborhoods where the devices are deployed to add new and under-represented content to the Wikipedia Commons
  4. Use the wealth of local print and historical resources to contribute to the Kurdish, English, and Arabic wikiepdias about the region
  5. Publish an article sharing results of these things, including a hardware/software suite that makes this replicable anywhere in the world.

Who will you be doing outreach with?Edit

Project planEdit


I am already going to Syria to collaborate with local organizations there who are already using mesh networks. Having those existing local connections with people who already have some familiarity with this is the background of this project.


  • $500 for 10 X $50 raspberry pis model 3 starter kit (including power cable, case, and sd card)
  • $200 for 10 X $20 flash drives to store Wikipedia using the Kiwix platform
  • $300 for 3 X ~$100 buys a year of 3g cellular access on the pis (the rest of them will simply act as routers to extend the network).
  • $300 to hire a local photographer - not easy to bring camera equipment to Syria and photo documentation of this project will help for context
  • $300 to hire local English/Arabic translator to help with making instruction notes. Partners speak English but at the sites we need a set of instructions in the local language.
  • $400 travel stipend for user:charliemeyers to bring the hardware, set it up, and document the process online for replicability. Normally, I'd hate to take grant money for personal expenses, but shipping electronics to a war zone is impossible and these have to come by private courier one way or another. I was specifically asked to bring this hardware. I intend to do it regardless of funding status, subsidizing my airline ticket is a huge help. (Note: this pays for 1/2 of a one-way flight).

Community engagementEdit

We have existing partners in Syria who can host a deployment.

After the device is deployed, those partners will survey users.

After usage information and survey results are back, the last part of community engagement is presenting results in English through the publication of an articles to be distributed in Wikipedia communication channels.


  • March 2017-- Gather materials and travel to the region.
  • April -- Set-up the raspberry pis at each site (to be determined by geopolitical forces).
  • May -- Test, troubleshoot, and debug the deployments
  • June -- Train locals to take over the newly revised software package (simple maintenance can be handled locally, but the international support team will be on call for more complicated questions).
  • July -- Take feedback from the new technical team and develop strategies to manage the hardware.
  • August -- Complete community survey about what did/n't work, next steps, and ways to engage and empower the local wikipedia community to take over the project (ie get more funding for locals).

Project teamEdit

  • Charlie Meyers (user: charliemeyers)- I will be handling mesh network deployment, hardware transport, technical support. I have been working with NYC Mesh for 3 years to build, test, and deploy this technology in NYC with an eye and ear towards the needs of developing nations. Now that the platform is ready, we are ready to roll it out in what can only be the ultimate test of ad-hoc, wireless infrastructure.
  • Kiwix/Wikipedia - provides content for distribution
  • Toronto Mesh Network-- providing auxiliary technical support for the routing software
  • NYC Mesh Network -- providing auxiliary technical support for antennas and radio mapping
  • Kurdish groups -- Due to politically sensitive reasons, I have excluded the names of the Kurdish groups I will be working with. This information is available for the review board, but I cannot make it public to the entire internet. These are civilian groups that work in the communities affected by the war in order to integrate displaced people.
  • Wikimedia NYC and NYC Mesh have ongoing collaborations. While WM NYC is not supporting this Syria project, it has supported offline deployment of Wikipedia in NYC

Community notificationEdit

Due to the politics around the Kurdish language and conflict in the region, this page will serve as the public link for this grant. I would like to note here that I was approached (due to my niche experience with off-line networking) about helping Kurdish groups in the region and asked to bring this particular hardware as well as the educational content. I intend on doing this either way, but official support and a small grant puts them on the road to more funding, employment of local folks, and greater access to the wikipedia in the region. The hardware provides an opportunity to build infrastructure while giving locals the tools to learn more and teach themselves without expensive data costs.


  1. Anthere (talk) 17:22, 24 February 2017 (UTC)
  2. Charlie and the NYC Mesh team have been regular attendees, co-organizers, and presenters of Wikimedia NYC meetups. Wiki has limited presence in Syria and I think that any kind of project which is likely to have a practical result and be followed by some reporting of how it went would be useful. It is convenient that Charlie happens to be going to Syria, already has some experience with offline Wikipedia deployment, has professional offline-media partnerships in Syria, and has personal and organizational experience collaborating with you. Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:31, 24 February 2017 (UTC)