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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by Amit Kapoor

Aircel partnership brings Wikipedia Zero to India

Wikipedia Zero is now available in India

It is our mission to provide free access to knowledge for everyone in the world. It’s only fitting then that today we announced our first Wikipedia Zero partnership launch in India, the world’s second most populous country with over 1.2 billion people.  Our new partnership with Aircel will give 60 million mobile subscribers in India the potential to access Wikipedia at no data cost, bringing the program’s global partnership footprint to 470 million subscribers.

While mobile penetration in India is over 70 percent (867 million subscribers), the total Internet audience of India is only 77 million people (Comscore, June 2013), roughly the same as Japan (73 million, Comscore June 2013) – a country with 1/10th the population.  Infrastructural and economic barriers in India, where income per capita is 1/30th that of Japan, have led to this divide in information access.  However, the proliferation of mobile – and programs like Wikipedia Zero – will change that. Already, India has passed Japan to become the third largest smartphone market in the world.

The challenge in enabling knowledge access in India is not just about distribution and cost, though; it’s also about language. India has no national language, but there are 22 recognized official languages in the country. Many Indians are not only accessing the internet for the first time on mobile, but also non-English content is becoming accessible for the first time via mobile.

Hindi Wikipedia, for example, currently has 22.1 percent of page views globally coming from mobile compared to 17.3 percent for all other languages .[1]  We hope to further catalyze this transformation as Wikipedia users on Aircel can access English, Hindi, Tamil or any of the other 17 Indic language Wikipedias without being charged data fees .[2]

To meet our commitment to bringing free knowledge to everyone in the world, we need to break down the barriers that prevent access. With Wikipedia Zero officially available today on Aircel in India, we’re one step closer to that objective.

Amit Kapoor
Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation

Notes

  1. From stats.wikimedia.org, June 2013: Hindi Wikipedia page views (2.1M mobile /9.5M all); Wikipedia worldwide (3,672M mobile/21,229M all)
  2. A phone or browser must have the capability to render an Indic font in order to access non-English versions.

 

Axiata joins Wikimedia Foundation as newest Wikipedia Zero partner

Monday, the Wikimedia Foundation announced Axiata Group Berhad as the newest partner in the Wikipedia Zero program. Through this partnership, Axiata will offer Wikipedia on mobile devices free of data charges to its customers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In three of the countries (Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka) this will be the first implementation of Wikipedia Zero.

In many countries within Asia and throughout the developing world, the barriers to accessing Wikipedia can be substantial. For example, in Cambodia, where there is an active Wikipedia editor community, mobile penetration is over 100 percent, but gross national income per capita is still less than $1,000 a year. Soon, however, anyone in Cambodia with a Smart Axiata SIM card and browser-enabled phone will be able to access Wikipedia Zero without cost being an issue.

This announcement comes soon after other exciting news for Wikipedia Zero, including a partnership with Vimpelcom, a grant from the Knight Foundation, and a SXSW Interactive Award for activism. As Kul Wadhwa wrote in last week’s blog post, Wikipedia Zero is “activism” because the program advocates a paradigm shift to a world where free access to knowledge is a fundamental human right.

Reducing barriers, really, is what Wikipedia is all about. An open-source, collaborative encyclopedia, compiled exclusively by a volunteer community, challenges the idea that information must be commodified. The editor community, in overcoming that barrier, has created over 25 million articles since Wikipedia was started in 2001. Past surveys demonstrate that the most common motivation volunteers express for editing Wikipedia is that they like the idea of sharing knowledge.

They want to reduce the gap between the information they have and someone else’s ability to benefit from it. However, even once that information is available, many potential readers run into economic and technical impediments that prevent access. Wikipedia Zero partner organizations have taken a bold step, like Axiata has today, to reduce those.

We applaud Axiata and look forward to more mobile carriers partnering with us to bring free knowledge to every single person on the planet.

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

Wikipedia Mobile Hits 3 Billion Monthly Page Views

At the end of January, we reached another milestone:  3 billion mobile page views in one month.   This means 14.5 percent of Wikipedia page views now are to the mobile site, up from 9.9 percent a year ago.  Our target in the 2012-13 annual plan is to hit 4 billion monthly mobile page views by the end of the fiscal year (June 2013).

The “Why” of Mobile

The data speaks for itself. Mobile page views rose over 75 percent in 2012, while desktop traffic grew at just under 20 percent [1]. It is clear that much of Wikipedia’s growth is happening on mobile.  We know that two things contribute significantly to this: 1) With mobile internet, readers have new reasons to look things up on Wikipedia, be it either related to context and location or convenience and availability, 2) Many readers in developing countries, specifically where there is limited broadband penetration, are using mobile devices as their first or only means to access the internet.

A look at the data accompanying past mobile milestones reinforces these reasons.  In the 15 months it has taken for mobile traffic to triple (from 1 billion to 3 billion), overall Wikipedia traffic grew just 33 percent, indicating that many loyal readers are shifting their time to mobile devices[2].  Secondly, when Wikipedia hit 500 million mobile page views two years ago, 71 percent of that traffic was to the English Wikipedia.  Today, only 52 percent of mobile traffic is to English Wikipedia, illustrating that mobile growth has become a global phenomenon.
Wikipedia Mobile - Monthly Page View Milestones

The “How” of Mobile

The question is no longer about why mobile matters, but instead how to manage it.  It raises two challenges for Wikimedia — contribution and distribution.   Editing Wikipedia has traditionally happened with a keyboard and monitor, but now smaller screens and touch interfaces are critical to figure out.  Similarly, mobile contributions are likely to be more dependent on the context of the user — where they are, what they are doing, and how much time they have.  With each of these questions, though, also comes immense opportunity to experiment with new editing behaviors like photo upload and micro-contributions. The product team at WMF is tirelessly working on these experiments, with significant headway already made in photo contributions.

The second challenge of the new mobile landscape is how to distribute Wikipedia.  In a purely desktop world, many people discovered Wikipedia through search engines, and high rankings on search results provided credibility and brand equity for the site.  With mobile, though, sessions originate in a more diverse fashion, be it through apps, bookmarks, or even the ‘old-fashioned’ method of direct domain access to familiar sites.  Our official Android and iOS apps cover a lot of this territory, and we see around 40,000 device installs per day on Google Play and approximately 10,000 through the Apple App Store.  Wikipedia Zero, with a current reach of 330 million mobile subscribers, drives awareness of Wikipedia in mobile-centric developing countries and eliminates the cost barrier to accessing it.  Finally, plans are underway to pilot ways to read Wikipedia by text message, and we’re looking at additional app platforms as well. Of course, new mobile readers today become potential new contributors tomorrow, so each of our mobile efforts are part of a virtuous circle of free knowledge.

The potential of mobile is extraordinary, and the work is only beginning. Hope to see you soon at 4 billion.

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

  1. From stats.wikimedia.org (December 2011, December 2012,  percent change): Mobile (1.585 B, 2.799 B, 76.5 percent), Desktop (14.069 B, 17.275 B, 18.2 percent)
  2. Total Wikipedia traffic: October 2011 (16.616 B), January 2013 (22.111 B)

VimpelCom partnership grows the reach of Wikipedia Zero to 330 million mobile users

We’re excited to announce VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world, as the newest partner in the Wikipedia Zero program. By waiving data fees to access Wikipedia on mobile phones, VimpelCom will join the Wikimedia Foundation in our effort to give every single person on the planet access to the free knowledge on Wikipedia.

VimpelCom’s footprint covers eighteen countries with a base of almost 210 million mobile subscribers primarily in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. We are setting out to bring Wikipedia Zero to a minimum of 100 million VimpelCom subscribers in developing countries later this year, with more to follow in 2014. Together with the 230 million customers of our existing partners, this makes Wikipedia Zero available to 330 million people.

The primary target of Wikipedia Zero is people whose primary or only access to the internet is via a mobile device, and VimpelCom’s geographies fit this definition very well. In our analysis of the twenty-five countries with the highest percentage of mobile traffic (based on a minimum of 500K Wikipedia mobile page views), VimpelCom operates in five of them (Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh). The table below shows that nine of their markets exceed the global average for mobile usage, and for those that currently don’t, free access to mobile Wikipedia will help increase that percentage significantly.

VimpelCom Emerging Markets Mobile Percentages

In seven of VimpelCom’s operating territories, Russian is the primary language for Wikipedia readership. A quick glance at the readership of Russian Wikipedia shows how fast mobile usage has risen in these countries over the last year. As of December 2012, 14.1 percent of Russian Wikipedia traffic was to the mobile site, on par with the English Wikipedia ratio of 14.6 percent. More telling of this growth is that two years ago, the Russian percentage was half that of English. It’s a testimony of the decreasing price of internet-capable mobile phones having made access to knowledge in local languages attainable for much of the world’s population. By removing data cost as a barrier, VimpelCom will make this even more of a reality.

English and Russian Mobile Wikipedia Traffic

Wikipedia Zero has already proven to accelerate mobile Wikipedia traffic within our existing partners’ networks. The marketing efforts which VimpelCom operators put behind the program will raise awareness of Wikipedia in places where it is less well known, and we hope to see similar spikes in traffic in each of these territories. We look forward to sharing the results, news, and case studies here.

See also the press release: VimpelCom partners with the Wikimedia Foundation to offer free mobile Wikipedia access through Wikipedia Zero, and the accompanying Q&A

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

The countries in which mobile matters most

At the beginning of this year, we launched Wikipedia Zero with the aim of reducing barriers to accessing knowledge on mobile devices. Many people in the developing world use mobile phones as their primary–or only–means to access the Internet. Through partnerships with telecommunications companies, Wikipedia Zero removes the cost of data as an obstacle between individuals and the power of knowledge.

There are close to 6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, but less than 600 million broadband connections, or 1/10th. Broadband connections are relatively scarce in developing countries, with less than 5 connections per 100 people, but there is nearly one mobile subscription per every single person on the planet [1].

As mobile becomes more of a ubiquitous access point in developing countries, it has immense potential to bring knowledge to many people who previously had limited means to access information. We’ve repeated this message throughout the year, and I wanted to share some data that substantiate our target for the Wikipedia Zero program. Below is a list of the top 25 most mobile-centric countries, meaning those that have the highest ratio of mobile to overall traffic on Wikipedia:

Top mobile countries to Wikipedia.

Of the top 25, there are 22 countries classified as developing. Twelve of them, including all of the top 8, are in Africa. Even more telling is that 16 of these countries have mobile usage percentages greater than 20 percent. Compare that to the global average of 11.5 percent–and 15.6 percent in the U.S.–and you get a sense for how much potential mobile has to change the world.

In 2012, we announced Wikipedia Zero partnerships in 31 developing countries. Eleven of those have launched so far, and from what we’ve seen, they’ve had measurable impact. In 2013, we plan to bring a lot more partners and countries on board, many of them on the list above. We expect the percentages in the list to increase even more next year, and we hope that our efforts help drive the accessibility and awareness of Wikipedia to accelerate the trend.

(Special thanks to volunteer Kajari Ghosh for helping compile this data.)

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

[1] http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats/a#subscribers

Wikipedia Zero grows readership in Africa and Asia

A little over six months ago, we deployed our first Wikipedia Zero partnership with Orange in Uganda, offering mobile internet users access to Wikipedia without data charges. Since then, nine additional operators in different countries have launched the program, and twenty-two others are in the current queue. We are now beginning to see the impact of the program, and the first numbers are encouraging: page views from our partners in Niger and Kenya have risen sharply, as have unique visitors in Malaysia.

Context

Our stated mission for the Wikipedia Zero program is to reduce barriers for accessing Wikipedia on mobile devices. From the outset, it has been our goal to manage this program with an analytical lens. With the cost of data removed, we expect an increase in the amount of people accessing Wikipedia for the first time, and also hope that existing readers aren’t deterred from reading more articles. The best proxy to measure this is to look at the growth of Wikipedia page views that come from a mobile partner’s IP address range, and compare it to the growth rate of mobile page views from the rest of that same country. Ultimately, we also want to measure unique visitor additions from the program (to verify that new readers are indeed being introduced), but, internally, we can only measure page views for now.

Page View Growth

Two of our partners agreed to let us publish Wikipedia Zero traffic figures from their network for this blog post. Orange Niger and Orange Kenya both launched the program in July of this year. Both countries are extremely mobile-centric, with 41 percent of all Wikipedia page views in Kenya and 29 percent in Niger coming from mobile (compared to a global total of 12 percent)[1]. The chart below shows Wikipedia mobile page views for each partner and country respectively:

The news is good. Since the month prior to launch, we’ve seen 77 percent growth in page views through Orange Niger (compared to 7 percent for rest of Niger), and 88 percent for Orange Kenya (compared to -7 percent for rest of Kenya). For each of these two operators, their “Wikipedia share” (the percentage of mobile page views in that country from the partner’s customers) has nearly doubled in that time. Data sets for these two partners are both relatively small, so we’re careful to not to draw too many conclusions from them. However, we’re excited about what it might imply for the future impact of the program.

Unique Visitor Growth

As mentioned before, we’re unable to measure partner unique visitors yet through our internal analytics (our public, global figures for unique visitors are measured by comScore Mediamatrix). However, some partners, such as Digi (Telenor’s subsidiary in Malaysia), do have their own mechanisms for measurement. Since they launched the program in May, unique visitors to Wikipedia on their network have jumped 42 percent, from 91,000 to 131,000. Though it is not yet something we can measure on a recurring basis, it’s a telling indicator that Wikipedia Zero partnerships are successful in bringing new readers to the site.

What’s next

These three data points make us really optimistic. They show growth, though we need to continually manage and measure to see if growth persists when we work with larger bases, and also need to test what happens over time. We’ll share more data as we can, and we also hope to deep dive into a few markets over the next several months to learn exactly what type of partner marketing activity is most effective in driving the growth we described. Stay tuned.

Amit Kapoor
Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

1. From http://stats.wikimedia.org/wikimedia/squids/SquidReportCountryData.htm, Sept 2012 (mobile site page views / total page views): Kenya (4.1 M / 10.4 M), Niger (69 K / 244 K), World (2.2 B / 18.5 B)

Marketing Free Knowledge on Mobile in Africa

Free Wikipedia poster from Orange in Kampala

Over the last few months, we have written several blog posts about the launch of our mobile partnerships to provide access to Wikipedia without incurring data charges, so I thought it would be a good idea now to describe what one of these partners is doing to promote our common program. Orange Uganda is a great example.

Orange Uganda was the first Orange affiliate to launch the free access program we announced together in January. Since April 4, Orange customers in Uganda have been able to access Wikipedia on their mobile phones without accruing any data fees. Our shared philosophy is that this should remove barriers to knowledge access, giving people who previously may not have been able to access Wikipedia the opportunity to do so now.

This raises an interesting challenge in itself, though: how do you communicate the offer of free knowledge to the masses, many of them who have never used Wikipedia before and may not know what it is? Businesses deal with marketing products and services all the time, but promoting the availability of knowledge without cost is a creative endeavor that we need to pursue together with our mobile partners.

Orange’s approach in Uganda has been through an “upgrade your knowledge” campaign that is blanketed throughout the country. They’ve put up over 100,000 flyers, 100 street pole posters (pictured), and noticeboards at 11 universities. In addition, they’ve even run radio ads. All this helps get the word out about free knowledge, and for many people in Uganda, it may be the first time they’ve heard of Wikipedia. In an ideal scenario, someone who doesn’t have internet access at home may see one of these messages, turn on their phone’s browser, and look up their first Wikipedia article.

We’re planning to do similar outreach with a number of our current and future partners. If you’re in one of these countries and you come across any of these materials, let us know, or snap a picture and send it to us. Also, tell us your ideas – how would you market free knowledge on mobile?

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

Wikipedia Zero launches in Malaysia with Digi

Shortcut to Wikipedia Zero on Digi’s portal

For the first time, Wikipedia is now available on mobile free of data charges in Asia. On Monday May 21st, Digi in Malaysia began offering Wikipedia Zero, Wikimedia’s program to reduce cost as a barrier for accessing knowledge on mobile devices. In addition to being the first in Asia, Digi is also the first operator in the Telenor group to roll out the program.

Digi’s 10 million customers can read as many Wikipedia articles as they like (provided they have an internet-capable phone), in any language, through the Opera Mini browser without accruing data fees. The free access applies to the lightweight, text-only mobile version of Wikipedia, which Digi customers can now access by going to zero.wikipedia.org. Adding to the list of firsts, Digi is the first partner we have worked with to release the text-only site, which is especially beneficial to users with slower connection speeds or lower-end phones. Users can of course still see an image if they go one click deeper, but the download of that image may not be excluded from data charges.

Landing page for Digi customers at zero.wikipedia.org

To promote free use of Wikipedia, Digi has placed a link on top of their DigiLive Zero portal on Opera Mini. We are also beginning to work with them, along with all of our current and upcoming partners, to experiment with additional ways to promote the availability of free Wikipedia – and ultimately free knowledge – within their communities.

It’s the beginning of an exciting time, and one in which we hope we can bring the gift of knowledge to a whole new set of people. We’re approaching it in an analytical way, too, and will be measuring the impact these Wikipedia Zero implementations have on both overall page views in the regions along with the increase in local language readership. Malaysia is now the third country in which Wikipedia is available for free on mobile (Tunisia and Uganda are the other two; updates from there coming soon), and many more will be launching in the coming months.

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships
Dan Foy, Technical Manager, Mobile Partnerships

Mobile milestone: Two billion page views

Page views to the Wikipedia mobile site (red: non-English versions) compared to the 2 billion target from the annual plan

One of the annual plan targets of the Wikimedia Foundation for 2011-2012 was to reach 2 billion monthly page views to the Wikipedia mobile site by June 2012. We’re happy to say that we hit the mark sooner, on the second-to-last day of April to be exact. April clocked in at 2.089 billion, a year-over-year increase of 187%. The mobile site now attracts 12.6% of all page views for Wikipedia, more than twice of its 5.1% share in April 2011.

How did it happen? As internet usage shifts from a desktop-centric environment to a more mobile-centric one, there’s a migration to smaller screens. Various industries and factors have made that happen, and several things have been done at the Wikimedia Foundation to move with the change. We can’t do justice to all the individual work by attempting to list it here, but amongst the many changes and contributions, a few highlights include the launch of the new mobile site last October, better device detection, and the official Android app announced in January.

Also notable about the 2 billion mark is the way use has evolved globally. A year ago, 67% of all visits to the Wikipedia mobile site were to the English Wikipedia; now that number is 54%. In the Global South in particular, traffic to the mobile sites for certain languages has grown tremendously. Some examples include Portuguese (from 3.9M to 27.4M), Arabic (from 1.7M to 10.2M), and Turkish (from 1.0M to 9.0M). As our partnership programs roll out to allow hundreds of millions to access Wikipedia on their mobile devices without incurring data charges, we expect mobile use to be even more globally distributed over the coming year.

The work on mobile, from both the tech and global development side, is not slowing down in the least however. There’s a lot more to come, but it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the mark we’ve reached, and to thank every community and staff member who played a part.

On behalf of the Mobile Team (Tomasz Finc, Patrick Reilly, Arthur Richards, Jon Robson, André Engels, Kul Wadhwa, Mani Pande, Amit Kapoor, Yuvaraj Pandian, Max Semenik, Phil Chang, Dan Foy):

Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

Wikipedia seeks global operator partners to enable free access

Probably the most repeated words around the Wikimedia movement are Jimmy Wales’ “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” The Wikipedia community are the ones creating that world, and the ubiquity of mobile internet is what may actually enable it. With mobile internet users expected to surpass desktop users by 2014, mobile is fast becoming the primary medium by which people around the world can access knowledge. In the Global South particularly, many new mobile internet users are part of a generation whose first and only access to the internet is on mobile. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge to Wikipedia – how do we let these users know that the sum of all knowledge exists in their pocket, and how do we make it free? On the desktop, many readers discovered Wikipedia through search, but on mobile, sessions and queries originate differently. With this in mind, we need the help of partners – namely mobile operators and handset manufacturers – to help ensure the distribution of knowledge.  This is why we’re setting out with a global mobile partnership program.

We are looking for operator partners, particularly in the Global South, to join us in this mission. We want to work with them to help promote the availability of Wikipedia on phones — and, not just on smartphones, but across the range of data and feature phone users. This would include links through bookmarks, decks, and portals as well as marketing messages driving awareness towards the accessibility of free knowledge on mobile. Additionally, we are currently exploring ways to develop feature phone access to Wikipedia through SMS and USSD, and operator partnerships will be core to that initiative as well.

At the center of this whole strategy will be the launch of Wikipedia Zero – a lightweight, text-only version of our mobile site optimized for slower connections. The “zero” part means zero-rated, or rather zero cost to the user. Operator partners would “zero-rate” the custom site, meaning the user would not get charged data fees (nor be required to have a data plan) to access it. This will be a great asset to many mobile users in the Global South, who, although they may have an internet-ready phone, are deterred by data fees. This, to us, is in pursuit of truly enabling the “free” in “freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”

We are working to enlist new global partners now, particularly for Wikipedia Zero.  Mobile partnerships have long been seen as an important priority, but we haven’t had enough manpower to execute them on a fully global scale until now.  I joined the foundation three months ago as part of the global development mobile team (lead by Kul Wadhwa) with enlisting and managing these partnerships as my priority. Kul and I have begun to talk with new partners already, and we hope to announce some soon.  Given that we have a lot of ground to cover, we have to be systematic, so we are focusing first on India and East Asia in Q4 of this year, followed by the Middle East and Africa in Q1 2012, and Latin America in Q2 2012. This coincides in part with the global development programs including India Catalyst, Arabic Catalyst, and Brazil Catalyst.  Of course, we expect there will be some deviations from this sequence.

We’re also working very tightly with the mobile dev/product teams and community to ensure all the innovations and enhancements (including the forthcoming Android release) they are bringing are accessible throughout the world through these partnerships. We look forward to sharing the progress,  learnings, and discoveries here.

Amit Kapoor
Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships