Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2017/Cycle 2/Reach/Generative research summary/da

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In an effort to reach more people, the Wikimedia Foundation began investigating potential readers in markets where Wikipedia awareness and readership is currently low and access to the internet is quickly growing. These potential readers are seeking out information online, often from mobile phones, in languages that may not be what they speak at home. The research focused on understanding the context for readers in these places including their usage of the internet, perceptions of Wikipedia, and how existing functionalities might support or inhibit learning for them.


The Wikimedia Foundation conducted studies in a number of high-potential countries, with the deepest investigations in three countries: Mexico, Nigeria, and India. There were three forms of research conducted in each area. The first was through community interviews, which involved engaging community members to find ideal interview profiles and participants and learning what they would want to know about readers in their countries. The second form of research was conducted through touch-tone phone surveys that were able to show Wikipedia awareness and usage patterns, general mobile and internet use, as well as the demographics of the user. The final method used to collect information was done through design research, which included ethnographic interviews, user technology demos, and expert interviews. In Mexico, 2,500 surveys were conducted in two languages; in Nigeria, 2,500 surveys were conducted in four languages; and in India, 6,000 surveys were conducted across twelve different languages. These studies occurred over the period of February to June of 2016. See the full report on Meta.


From this research, there were 25 findings in seven different categories across the three geographies:

  1. Information seeking
    • People seek news and actionable information first, and context second.
    • There is no one-stop shop for news and information.
    • Only in specific scenarios do people scrutinize the credibility of an international information source.
    • People don’t need to trust an information source to find it useful.
    • Successful information systems meet users where they are today, while also evolving with their changing information habits.
    • Visual content and design helps attract and win over users.
  1. Accessing the internet
    • Constant, individual internet access is not the norm for all.
    • Mobile dominates for getting online, and Android is the platform of choice.
    • In Nigeria, internet has been prohibitively expensive. Consumers are savvy, price-sensitive shoppers with low brand loyalty.
    • In India, internet access is more affordable, but cost remains a barrier to widespread internet penetration.
    • In Mexico, consumers are conscious of data use and may use wifi to defray costs. Public wifi access can be slow and low quality.
  1. Understanding the internet
    • Mental models around the internet can be confused.
    • People are learning how to use the internet from others, both loved ones and professional intermediaries.
  1. Using the internet
    • People are using the internet in English, without expecting otherwise.
    • People are precious about data usage, and low-bandwidth browsers dominate.
    • Mobile apps have exploded in popularity, with instant messaging and social media at the top.
    • Students and educators often have conflicting views on if and how the internet can support formal education.
  1. Getting information online
    • People trust online search (Google in particular) to get them what they need.
    • Search habits are largely basic. Users surface what they need through trial-and-error queries, or by looking for quality indicators in the results.
    • In an era of search-led, task-oriented browsing, there is little loyalty to specific web properties -- unless they relate to personal passions.
    • People are increasingly getting information online, then consuming or sharing it offline.
  1. Wikipedia awareness
    • As a brand, Wikipedia is not widely recognized or understood. Some people are Wikipedia readers without realizing it.
    • People confuse Wikipedia with a search engine or social media platform. This can create unrealistic expectations of its functionality.
  1. Wikipedia usage
    • 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.
    • Wikipedia’s content model can arouse suspicion. Despite this, there was no observed relationship between trust in and reading of Wikipedia.