Internet access rate:
Wikipedia monthly pageviews:
June 13–24, 2016
Patterns are behaviors we saw across multiple people we talked to with shared characteristics. The patterns we saw roll up into findings and aligned along 6 higher level themes. Some findings were observed in several locations, others are specific to one location as noted.
Theme: Information seeking
Finding: People seek news and actionable information first, and context second.
In their day-to-day lives, people actively seek information to stay abreast of current affairs or to help them with immediate tasks. By and large, searching for reference information—including the type Wikipedia excels at—is a byproduct of news- or task-oriented information-seeking. That is, people look for reference information to help them contextualize current affairs or work on immediate tasks, and not as ends in themselves.
- (India and Nigeria) Event-based reporting travels better, both through i) analog, human networks, and ii) the digital social networks through which more and more people are now getting information.
- (India and Nigeria) People are task-oriented, rather than exploration-oriented, when seeking information. Most of the time, they want information to help them determine how to act, rather than context to help them evolve how they think.
- (India and Nigeria) Descriptive, contextual information requires further processing to become useful for decisionmaking. Doing so requires additional resources, both mental and potentially financial—the latter in environments where internet access is expensive and/or pay-for-bandwidth.
Finding: There is no one-stop shop for news and information.
People seek variety in their news and information sources. They recognize the comparative advantage of different outlets, and seek out Non local and local sources.
Wikipedia's comparative advantage may come from both leveraging the perceived quality conferred to international sources, and increasing the local relevance and utility of its content. In specific markets, for example, Wikipedia could expand its content on national, historical drivers of crime to help readers interpret hyperlocal, weekly updates on crime hotspots.
- (India and Nigeria) People seek local (community or municipal) sources for timely, granular reporting on hyperlocal issues (e.g. weekly crime hotspots). These sources are seen as more useful for people's day-to-day lives.
Finding: Only in specific scenarios do people scrutinize the credibility of an international information source. (India and Nigeria)
For international information sources, people seem to only assess their credibility when the information will be used to complete tasks (e.g. for school, work) that will be assessed by an external authority.
In these cases, most people attribute trustworthiness based on affiliation with widely recognized, ‘household-name' institutions that are perceived to be reputable. These are typically those from media (e.g. Al Jazeera), academia (e.g. MIT), or non-governmental organizations (e.g. UNICEF).
Finding: People don't need to trust an information source to find it useful.
People mostly seek information that is useful for some immediate purpose; ideally, it is from a credible source, but the source doesn't have to be trusted for the information to be useful.
People are sophisticated in addressing gaps in the perceived utility or credibility of information.
- (India and Nigeria) If they find information that doesn't meet their exact needs, they canvass and blend multiple sources—from personal human networks, offline sources (e.g. textbooks, newspapers), and digital channels—to answer their specific query.
- (India and Nigeria) If they find information of dubious credibility, they either discard it—especially in settings where search costs are relatively low (e.g. online)—or they try to validate it by comparing multiple sources.
Finding: Successful information systems meet users where they are today, while also evolving with their changing information habits.
As people experiment with new, digital information sources, human and analog sources remain reliable standbys.
- (India) People (including those with unlimited internet access) continue to consume old media at predictable intervals—many read the newspaper in the mornings or during work breaks, and watch TV news at night. The familiarity of these sources, and established habits around them, make them attractive. (For context, in 2015, India's internet penetration increased by 49% and its newspaper industry grew by 8%.)
Finding: Visual content and design helps attract and win over users.
Despite the rapid growth of text-dominant mediums such as SMS and the internet, engaging visual content is being increasingly recognized as critical to attracting and retaining users. Platforms are winning new and loyal users by incorporating and producing strong visual content. While a few respondents found Wikipedia articles easy to navigate based on its simple user interface, there may be greater opportunities to improve interest in and engagement with articles with more robust visual content.
- (India) The value of visual content to support learning (in educational environments) and strengthen communications (in professional settings) is well-recognized. Proponents appreciate the ability of visuals to simplify complex concepts and to appeal to all sorts of learning and content-processing styles. The current growth of digital, self-directed learning further underscores the importance of visual content—and video in particular—in engaging and winning audiences.
- (India) YouTube is widely popular, and usage—especially for self-directed learning—continues to soar. It has over 60 million unique users in India, with users spending more than 48 hours a month viewing content. In 2015 alone, the amount of content uploaded to YouTube in India grew by 90% while watch-time rose by 80%. For many, YouTube is their primary search engine for online content; how-to videos are hugely popular, followed by songs and movies.
Theme: Accessing the internet
Finding: Constant, individual internet access is not the norm for all.
- (India and Nigeria) Sharing devices with family members and friends is common among two key demographics:
- youth, and
- people with low internet access.
- (India and Nigeria) Those borrowing devices do not see shared access as an inconvenience, but simply as a way to get what they need right when they need it.
Finding: Mobile dominates for getting online, and Android is the platform of choice.
- (India and Nigeria) Feature phones and lower-grade Android smartphones are the primary devices for connecting to the internet, widely popular across all user groups. Series 40, Symbian, and others are used, but to a lesser degree. Only the wealthy use high-end (e.g. Samsung) Androids, iOS, or BlackBerry, and, even then, most prefer their Androids as the primary browsing/tethering devices due to their cost and battery life.
- (India and Nigeria) Mobiles are preferred for light, day-to-day communication, whereas laptops and desktops are preferred for bandwidth-heavy communication (or memory-intensive applications) such as streaming or downloading video content.
Finding: In India, internet access is more affordable, but cost remains a barrier to widespread internet penetration.
- (India) 35% of Indians are online. Among study respondents in India—which did not include those in rural or remote locations—the cost of internet access was not cited as a barrier to accessing and using the internet.
- (India) Government and private-sector efforts are underway to increase internet connectivity. Many efforts target transport infrastructure—e.g. Google Access is offering free WiFi through 10 major railway stations, Ola and Uber are offering free WiFi to customers in taxis.
Theme: Understanding the internet
Finding: People are learning how to use the internet from others, both loved ones and professional intermediaries.
Most people do not have a formal or knowledgeable source from which they can learn new technologies or the internet. Rather, such learning is typically social experience, happening through friends and families, and sometimes through niche retailers.
- (India and Nigeria) Digital immigrants are learning technology from digital natives. In particular, children are i) buying devices for their parents (mainly smartphones and tablets), ii) installing apps (mostly Skype, Whatsapp, and Facebook), and iii) teaching them how to use digital tools. This is especially common among young adults who are moving out, whose parents are especially motivated to learn new technologies in keep touch with them.
- (India) Sharing and passing down of devices between cohabitating family members spurs digital learning within households.
- (India) Men heavily influence women's technology behaviors. Women of all age groups are influenced by their male family members or colleagues in their access to, choice of, and use of technology.
- (Nigeria) Small and micro "app shops" are a key source of apps for many, especially the price-conscious. They provide easy (and lower-cost) access to the most popular apps. Customers often just ask shop owners to install "whatever you think I'll need".
Theme: Using the internet
Finding: People are using the internet in English, without expecting otherwise.
While most people prefer speaking in local languages, these preferences do not seem to translate to reading or writing online. English is widely accepted as the lingua franca of the internet, even among those for whom English is not their mother tongue or a language of comfort. This is not perceived positively or negatively; rather, it is an unquestioned expectation of being online.
- (India) A person's language of instruction in school influences his or her general level of comfort with online search and reading. English-language instruction leads to higher levels of comfort in navigating the internet; instruction in Hindi or another language creates potential needs for workarounds, e.g. specialized apps, use of Google Translate. The limited availability or use of local language keyboards or other textual input mechanisms also makes English the accepted, default language for internet usage.
Finding: People are precious about data usage, and low-bandwidth browsers dominate.
Browsers designed for users with limited data bandwidth and/or inconsistent internet connections rule in both Nigeria and India.
- (India) In India, UC Browser has grown through word-of-mouth and is widely believed to be a faster browser. Interestingly, it does load web content faster through data compression (as with Opera Mini); but as data cost is less of a concern in India (compared to Nigeria), it was UC Browser's gains in speed, and not its savings in data, that was cited as its unique selling point.
WhatsApp and Facebook are widely recognized and used. Most mobile data users (even those with limited internet access) use at least one. A 2014 poll found approximately half of surveyed mobile users in both India and Nigeria used WhatsApp. India is Facebook's largest market globally, where it counts 16% of Indians (or 195 million people) as users. Nigeria is its largest market in Africa, where nearly 10% of the population uses it.
These trends are reshaping not just how people socialize online, but how they seek and share information in all aspects of their lives. WhatsApp is used to chat or joke with friends, but also increasingly as a key information stream. Some university students in Nigeria have a WhatsApp study group for every class. Facebook is used to reconnect with friends and play games, but also increasingly as a key source of news.
MNOs' packaging of these apps in reduced- or fixed-fee bundles—where users pay an upfront fee for a suite of popular apps, after which data usage is free—will only help their ballooning popularity.
Finding: Students and educators often have conflicting views on if and how the internet can support formal education.
Students are uninspired to learn from traditional academic materials, as they see the content as outdated and unengaging. As a result, they copy peer notes and memorize information to get through assignments with as little investment as possible. The internet motivates students to learn, but many educators restrict their ability to use it.
- (India) At the secondary level, schools restrict students' access to and use of the internet—and students don't mind. Secondary students feel that teachers and textbooks have complete and correct information. They feel endorsed, offline content is "simple" and easy-to-use, and don't feel the need to supplement it with online information that require further effort to evaluate quality and utility. At the tertiary level, both institutional restrictions and student preferences evolve, and conflicts between them around the utility of the internet for learning become more common.
Theme: Getting information online
Finding: People trust online search (and Google in particular) to get them what they need.
People rely on Google for all of their online search needs. It is perceived as capable of answering any query. (India and Nigeria)
Instances of Google's personification indicate just how popular and beloved it is... "Uncle Google" (India), "Saint Google" (Mexico), "My Big Boss Google" (India), "Google Maharaj" (India), "Google is the solution to the world" (?)
Finding: Search habits are largely basic. Users surface what they need through trial-and-error queries, or by looking for quality indicators in the results.
Appearing in the first page of results in a Google search is key to winning traffic. Although specific search and result-selection behaviors differed between Nigeria and India, users in both countries typically did not venture beyond the first page of search results for most queries.
- (India) Search queries are mostly rudimentary and broad. Research did not observe use of search operators or advanced search tactics, even among internet power users. This places the onus on users to scour through many search results to cobble together what they need from diverse sources. Pulling up all the pages on first-page results, then sifting through them, is the norm.
- (India) People judge the relevance or quality of a search result based on unique indicators that are individual- and case-specific—but that often denote or tie to an offline/institutional marker of quality. Students may look for signs in webpage titles that suggest content is from a textbook (e.g. "Chapter 2: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs") or meta descriptions that track to something a trusted source has said on the topic (e.g. when searching "causes of Russian revolution", a student believed a result with World War I in the meta description was a strong source because she remembered from a class lecture that the revolution had something to do with WWI).
Finding: In an era of search-led, task-oriented browsing, there is little loyalty to specific web properties—unless they relate to personal passions.
People trust Google to curate the right content for them on case-by-case basis. Unless it is a well-known local media brand or personality, people typically do not pay attention to the domain or source of the content. (India and Nigeria)
A webpage's perceived relevance or quality comes more from being on the first page of Google results, than from the name or reputation of its source. For some users, the only exceptions to this norm are the most well-known international universities (e.g. Harvard, MIT). People only memorize the names of websites—and go directly to them, instead of via search—that relate to their personal interests (e.g. Goal.com for football fans, Cricbuzz.com for cricket fans, IEEE.org for electronics enthusiasts, and TED.com for those who enjoy TED talks).
In these environments, it is difficult for international content brands to build brand awareness, let alone brand affinity or loyalty.
Finding: People are increasingly getting information online, then consuming or sharing it offline.
Users are frequently moving what's online to offline for repeated viewing, printing, or sharing. These behaviors are growing along with the tools that make them possible.
- (India) Offline modes of retaining and exchanging information are gaining popularity. Most commonly cited exchange apps are Xender, SHAREit, and ShareApp. Downloading to print information is another form of offline transfer.
- (India) Downloading online content, including videos and songs to watch or listen to later, and school assignment materials to print for use or submission, is a widespread behavior. However, saving Wikipedia articles for later was not observed beyond one instance.
Theme: Using Wikipedia
Finding: As a brand, Wikipedia is not widely recognized or understood. People are Wikipedia readers without realizing it.
- Brand: Few respondents recognized the Wikipedia visual brand (the name was more widely known), or could accurately describe what Wikipedia was.
- Mission: Other than expert respondents, virtually no one seemed aware of Wikipedia's mission or that the larger Wikimedia movement.
- Content: Only a few respondents understood how content creation and editing worked. Most either had never considered the topic, or thought that editing was done by those paid or otherwise assigned to do so (e.g. Wikipedia staff or foreign students working on assignments).
- (India and Nigeria) Many casual Wikipedia readers had no knowledge that they had ever used the platform. As Wikipedia articles often feature in first-page search results, many people have used it without realizing it.
- (India and Nigeria) Students are the exception to the above (that many casual Wikipedia readers had no idea they had ever used the platform). Even students with limited to moderate internet access generally knew what Wikipedia was and how it could be useful for them.
As the most widely known internet brands (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) are social media platforms or search engines (e.g. Google), many other international internet brands are also lumped in these two categories. Mislabeled brands include Skype, YouTube, and Wikipedia.
At times, this can lead to unrealistic expectations around Wikipedia's features—for example, those that think it is a search engine believe it should have more robust search functionality. False expectations, in turn, lead to poor assessments of Wikipedia's design or performance.
Finding: Wikipedia readers are generally task-oriented, not exploration-oriented. Wikipedia is seen as a utilitarian starting point that sometimes surfaces through search, and not a destination in itself.
Readers believe Wikipedia's greatest value is providing strong overviews of any topic, particularly of people, places, or events. They land on Wikipedia articles when they are among top search results, and use them as a starting point for further learning.
- (India) Several users (typically those with unlimited internet access) accurately referred to Wikipedia as an "encyclopedia" or a "database of knowledge" because they see it as a platform to learn from.
- (India) Readers use Wikipedia for work tasks and related learning. Professional researchers (e.g. journalists, graduate students) find article references valuable, and use them as a jumping-off point for further research.
Finding: Wikipedia's content model can arouse suspicion. Despite this, there was no observed relationship between trust in and reading of Wikipedia. (India and Nigeria)
Trust in Wikipedia is shaken when people find out anyone can edit pages.* Especially in Nigeria, where the media is captured by political and commercial interests, there is skepticism that contributors could be neutral, and that the content they produce could be unbiased.
Interestingly, however, trust in and reading of Wikipedia are not highly correlated. Even when trust is low—e.g., when a person has been specifically told that Wikipedia is not credible—reading continues when people perceive the utility of content to be high.
Phone survey findings
Methodology and participants
Field research in Nigeria and India was conducted using design research methods—that is, contextual inquiry using primarily ethnographic research methods.
Design research emphasizes immersive observation and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with target respondents to understand the behaviors and rituals of people interacting with each other, with products and services, and with their larger environments.
It stresses interacting with respondents in their natural settings and observing respondents in their day-to-day lives to understand their deeper needs, motivations, and constraints.
To understand underlying motivations and drivers, researchers probe for the why's and how's behind stated and observed behaviours.
Primary methods applied for this research
Semi-structured individual interviews lasting up to 1.5 hours. Conducted in context and in private—e.g., in respondents' homes, workplaces, or other natural locations—allowing researchers to observe and ask about artifacts in the environment that may give greater insight into respondents' experiences.
User Observations & Technology Demos
Guided observations of respondents as they live, work, and use different products or services to identify otherwise unarticulated needs, motivations, habits, and challenges that may be otherwise subconscious. Respondents "think out loud" (articulate their thoughts as they perform different tasks) to provide insight into their thought process and how they react to different environmental stimuli and/or design features.
Key Informant Interviews
Interviews with experts in various fields who have insights into market dynamics, user behavior, and other relevant topics for Wikimedia. Experts were largely drawn from the fields of technology, education, media, and telecommunications.
In India two staff were in the field with Reboot for the research. Abbey Ripstra, Lead Design Research Manager was there for the full time, and Smriti Gupta, Regional Manager, Strategic Partnerships - Asia, was participating in research in both New Delhi and in Chennai.
- "Even in This Digital Age, Newspaper Industry Is Booming in India". Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "Why India's newspaper business is booming". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- Groves, Don. "New Additions To The Ranks Of India's Highest-Revenue YouTube Channels". Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "India Internet Users". www.internetlivestats.com. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- Widespread is defined as reaching 80% of citizens.
- Affordability is defined as a 500MB data plan that costs 5% or less of the average monthly income for 80% of citizens.
- Adika, Oscar (2014-03-05). "49% of Kenyan Mobile Users are on Whatsapp". Techweez. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- Kazeem, Yomi. "More people use Facebook in Nigeria than anywhere else in Africa" (in en-US). Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- "Indian Mobile App Industry: Users have 32 app on Average, Facebook, WhatsApp, UC Browser most popular" (in en-US). 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
- It was difficult to get specific figures for the most popular apps, and doing so was not a focus in this research. The ranked lists are provided as context only, based on analysis conducted by national media in Nigeria and India.
- In the select instances where researchers described how Wikipedia worked to respondents, they did so at the end of research activities. Explanations were brief, and focused on how Wikipedia worked; they did not elaborate on why its model has been successful. A carefully designed communications campaign may yield different reactions and assessments of Wikipedia's trustworthiness.