Grants:IdeaLab/Sharing the bad news: a media campaign about the absence of Wikipedians in Africa

status: idea
Sharing the bad news: a media campaign about the absence of Wikipedians in Africa
idea creator:
project contact:
Iolanda Pensa, io (_AT_)
A communication campaign based on press releases targeting 53 African countries. "Can you believe there are not even 5 people contributing to Wikipedia in Botswana?". The communication campaign focuses on the bad news with the aim of using communication to drive attention to Wikipedia and maybe accelerating the process of involving new contributors, "getting contributors out" and increase readership on Wikipedia and Wikipedia Zero.
created on: 11:24, 4 July 2014

Project ideaEdit

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

In Africa there are few and small communities of active contributors to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects. We are talking about 1 chapter, 1 user group and only 22 countries of 53 with 5 registered active editors[1]. Maybe in 5 years things will change naturally, but maybe 5 years is a little too long and we can find ways to accelerate the process. Communication is a way to drive attention and – maybe – accelerate processes.

Current communicationEdit

In general Wikipedia is not communicated much. In some part of the world we don't need to invite people to use Wikipedia: people know it already and they use it simply because it is a visibile and accessible resource on the Internet. The problem is different in other parts of the world, where people do not necessarily know Wikipedia.
We do have communication tools to explain how people can contribute to Wikipedia projects and those tools are videos, leaflets and guidelines for specific users (educators, teachers, GLAMs).
Events – such as Wikimania – are chances to communicate about the Wikimedia movement, but the communication of events focuses on the events not necessarily on the movement and the projects.
The Wikipedia Zero has created new chances to access Wikipedia. The service is provided in partnership with mobile phone companies which do implement communication campaigns in particular when the service is launched; those campaigns financed by the mobile phone companies obviously emphasize the mobile phone company rather than Wikipedia. On the other hand, since Wikipedia Zero is a service linked to companies, it is not possible to use the Wikipedia site-notice to communicate the availability of the service, because it would mean to add advertisement on Wikipedia. At the moment the Wikimedia Foundation has not launched a communication campaign of Wikipedia Zero directly produced and financed by the Wikimedia Fondation itself.
The Wikimedia Foundation has a communication team. The communication has been focusing in the past on the fundraising campaign and on responding to crises (misinformation, attacks, polemics). The growing communication team could currently increase the communication of the Wikimedia projects and their outreach.

Why communicationEdit

According to experience, when Wikipedia is cited on media there is immediately an increase in visits. When a specific article is cited and criticized, there is a tendency of having more edits on that very article and to get it fixed. News about Wikipedia (in the majority of cases bad news and scandals) tend to allow people to discover or remember that they can actually edit Wikipedia. If it is true that media coverage produce online fallouts, maybe it is worth to take advantage of it. Since we are not sure it works, it makes sense to test a campaign with limited costs based on press releases rather than on TV. Furthermore we do not know if a media campaign can efficiently work in places where there are only few people who actually have the resources (time, computer, connectivity, ICT skills, interest in enjoying writing an encyclopedia as a hobby) to edit Wikipedia.

What is your solution?Edit

Producing and evaluating a communication campaign in Africa can drive attention to Wikipedia and trigger visibility and contributions. Africa is the perfect continent where to start the campaign because:

  • it is the continent with the least contributors and active communities
  • content related to Africa is the least represent on Wikipedia.
  • the impact of the campaign would be more easily visible in Africa than in other continents
  • its countries have received the least investment form the Wikimedia Foundation.

What kind of campaignEdit

The campaign is meant to have a series of specific characteristics:

  • it is based on press releases. This allows to produce only 53 press releases and it allows to reduce costs.
  • it focuses on the bad news. It does not announce good news (even if of course there are good news to announce).
  • it does NOT focus on Africa, but on a specific country[2]. In other word the press releases does not send out a communicate which says "Wikipedia is not written by Africans" but it sends out a communicate for example in Botswana saying "In Botswana there are not even 5 people writing Wikipedia".
  • press releases are sent to newspapers, magazines and radio.

What are we likely to obtainEdit

The hypothesis is that people hearing the news can:

  • visit wikipedia -> Increase in Wikipedia visits (readerships)
  • use Wikipedia Zero (if available in their country) -> Increase of access to Wikipedia on mobile phones (readership)
  • occasional anonymous contributors might register -> Increase in registrations. This metric is not relevant as an indicator of the increased number of contributors (de facto also anonymous editors are contributors) but it can allow each country to improve their position with an increased number of active editors, a parameter considered essential for the Wikimedia Foundation to invest in activities in that specific country.
  • start playing with Wikipedia -> Increase number of contributions (participation).
  • facilitate meetings among people interested in Wikipedia -> outreach.

Project goalsEdit

Sharing the bad news: a media campaign about the absence of Wikipedians in Africa is a project aiming at increasing the communication of Wikipedia in all African countries. It does not aim at highlighting the good news of existing communities and events organized in the continent, but to address specific countries and tell them how bad things are going. The objective of this project is not to ignore or understate the relevance of people and their work in Africa in contributing to the Wikimedia projects, but to take full advantage of how "bad news" and "scandals" can drive more interest and attention than "good news".
The campaign is also a reasonable investment on a very large territory which can allow the movement to test a new communication strategy. The press release can announce the bad news and that tell people they can contribute to Wikipedia, they can access Wikipedia on their mobile phones for free (if the service is available) and they can provide information about the active contributors or communities in their country (if available and if people are ok in telling their story and coordinate the follow up of the campaign). The project also needs to plan the follow up: link to how to start contributing (in the relevant language) and contact page for a local meet up.
The project aims at targeting 53 African countries. It can be developed with a pilot in 3 countries.


  1. An active editor is considers an editor who makes at least 5 edits a month. The number of countries is based on the list of countries where there are at least 5 editors active on Wikipedia in English and French, ref Presentation by Asaf Bartov at Wiki Indaba 2014, Johannesburg.
  2. The reason of a campaign country-specific is based on a comment of an intellectual from Kenya at the ACASA conference in 2014; she said that in Kenya when something bad happens "it is due to Africa", when something good happens "It is the merit of Kenya". Of course her comment was a job but maybe focusing the campaign on each country is a way to show that it is not something happing generically in Africa, but it is a responsibility of people living and working in that specific country. A country-specific campaign might be more efficient than a communication about Africa in different countries.

Get involvedEdit

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