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Posts Tagged ‘global development’

Focusing on 90 percent of India

At WikiSangamotsavam 2012

I made a short visit to India last week in order to attend the Malayalam community conference “Wikisangamotsavam 2012” in Kollam, Kerala. The trip was my sixth visit to India since I joined Wikimedia in 2010, and was particularly special because it highlighted the importance and the huge potential of our projects in Indic languages.

While many people around the world experience India as an English-speaking country, close to 90 percent of Indians do not speak English at all. This is easy to miss, since it is quite common for the rest of the world to interact with one of the 125-150 million or so Indians (twice the population of the United Kingdom) who do speak English.

India is home to several hundred languages, 11 of which are the primary language of more than 30 million people worldwide (the approximate population of my home country, Canada). For Wikimedia to realize its vision, we need to have projects that serve the 90 percent in India, or more than a billion people.

What was encouraging about my visit was that I saw that this isn’t some naive dream. We are really seeing some communities emerge and there is no reason why we can’t attract large communities of contributors to build high quality Wikipedias in many Indic languages…and we can get these in the hands of every Indian on their mobile phone (more soon on mobile partnerships in India).

Logo of the Malayalam conference (English version)

The Malayalam community served as a real inspiration. Over the past 4 years, they have built a passionate community that has expanded their Wikipedia from 5,700 to 23,000 articles. The community is a diverse mix of teachers, university students, computer engineers, photographers, business people, doctors and others. They have been highly industrious in working through the myriad technical issues posed by the lack of Malayalam keyboards and the limited localization of software into the language. They developed an input tool that now allows users to enter information in various Indic languages on a latin script keyboard. They have built innovative partnerships with the Kerala government to introduce Wikipedia to students and to conduct Wikipedia Academies across the state. One middle school teacher even had his typing class contribute Malayalam epic poems to Wikisource, a useful way to get their typing practice done. They recently held a photography program called Malayalam loves Wikimedia, adding over 11,000 local images to Wikimedia Commons.

The Malayalam community is only at the end of the first verse of their epic poem. I challenged them to think about ways to grow their community. They have 80 active editors and are doing great work. Imagine if they were 1,500 editors like we have in the Polish community (a similar language by number of speakers): a community of that size would enable massive access to knowledge for any Malayalam speaker.

During the rest of my visit, I had the opportunity to hear about promising steps in Kannada, Gujarati, Assamese, Oriya, Telugu, Sanskrit and Hindi (we also recently blogged about the Tamil Wiki Media contest). Most of these projects are small at this time with fewer than 50 active contributors, some less than 10. What is promising is that there are a few passionate people ready to provide leadership, reach out in their communities and help build Wikimedia projects in their languages. It is also promising that groups are piloting different strategies in partnership with the India Program’s Indic initiative led by Shiju Alex. If we can have 5-10 small pilots operational at any given time, with frequent exchanges of the experiences gained in each, then we can quickly figure out effective strategies and spread them across the many Indic language projects and to other smaller projects around the world.

Imagine a world in which every single Indian with access to a computer or a mobile phone can freely access and contribute to the sum of all knowledge in their own language. Wouldn’t that be something special?

Barry Newstead is Chief Global Development Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation. He does not speak an Indic language, but is committed to supporting these projects.

Global Development midyear report 2011-12

Please find below the summary part of the mid-year status report from the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Development department, regarding the 2011-12 annual plan. The full report including the core activity review and priorities for next six months can be accessed on Meta.

Overall, the global development team continues to make progress in building our team, however we are moving more slowly than would be preferred in some areas. I’m happy that we have made a huge amount of progress in Mobile over the past six months. I would like to be further along in deploying pilot programs in India and Brazil as well as in expanding our grants program. The slower than desired pace is a result of our desire to do a better job of working with the communities where we are deeply engaged, a desire to do more upfront consultation and design work, and due to our relatively thinly spread leadership resource (me). We are also actively reflecting on the Pune Pilot and integrating lessons into how we work across the board, not just in the Global Education Project or in India.

WMF Goal #1: Mobile

Woman taking a mobile picture in Bangalore

We are on track to meet our plan for our mobile target of 2 billion page views for 2011/12 and partnerships with mobile operators representing 500 million subscribers. In December 2011, we had 1.534 billion page views to our mobile sites across all Wikipedias as compared with 802 million in June 2011.[1] We have made excellent progress across the organization on mobile over the past six months and are in a fundamentally better place than we were. Our mobile partnerships team has built a pipeline of partnerships with mobile operators around the world that start launching in January. Our current partnership list covers key markets in Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Africa, Turkey and Russia representing over 700 million subscribers. Not every deal will come to fruition, but we are confident that some major ones will and we’ll begin to attract wider interest in partnerships. In most cases, our partners will be offering Wikipedia access for free to their subscribers and we are working on marketing programs that will expand reach.

The Global Development team works closely with engineering on mobile research, product feature decision making and on technical support for partners. Our engineering team has deployed a much-improved mobile gateway and enhanced its functionality, and is working hard to release an Android app, which closes a hole in our portfolio. They are building out our engineering resources to enable continuous improvement of our mobile position. GD/Eng’s mobile research work (we have done two major studies) has helped inform engineering decisions on the product development pathway. Results from the Mobile Readers Survey 2011 are being analyzed, and will be shared soon. Findings from the mobile research work conducted in India and Brazil can be found at Wikipedia Mobile User Research.

WMF Goal #2: Editor growth

Qatar Convening for Arabic Wikipedia October 2011

Progress on editor growth has been more challenging. We are behind in getting pilot initiatives deployed to really understand the potential for direct impact on editor growth. Our primary effort to date has been the Global Education Program including the Pune Pilot in India. While the program in the US and Canada continues to grow, it has had a small and temporary impact on editor numbers. The program has not been oriented toward creating new Wikipedians, but has added almost 2,000 editors during the Fall 2011 semester, more than thrice the number from Spring 2011 (500+).

The Pune Pilot, which we launched in June, has wrapped up, but was a failure. There were a range of problems involving student plagiarism and the program took on too many students with too few support resources to manage the problems that came up. We also taxed the English Wikipedia community in a way that we had not intended and was regrettable. We learned a lot…and are engaged in a thorough review of the pilot with outside help to ensure we capture the lessons and make better and different mistakes in the future.

We did not have the capacity in place to launch other pilot initiatives in the past six months. We slowed down our plans for Brazil to create space to build a strong relationship with the Brazilian community and conduct some research into the current state of PT:WP. Our India program was at full capacity dealing with the Pune Pilot, supporting the Wikiconference India, and basic program setup requirements. Our India team also took some time to strengthen their links to the community and do a better job of getting early community partnership in program work.

An unplanned for opportunity emerged to accelerate catalyst activities in MENA focused on Arabic Wikipedia. It was not in the annual plan to work in MENA this year, but we took the opportunity presented by the interest of the Qatar Computing Research Institute in supporting Wikipedia. They hosted a small workshop where we met with leading Arabic Wikipedians and laid the groundwork for program work in the beginning of 2012.

Global Development core activity review

see full report

Global Development Priorities for the next six months

see full report


Barry Newstead

Chief Global Development Officer

Brazil recruiting and partnership with the community moves forward

The Wikimedia Foundation’s partnership with the Brazilian community continued to take shape this past week with my third visit to Brazil in seven months. As previously announced, the Wikimedia Foundation is in the process of engaging a Program Director to lead our work in Brazil. On this visit, I partnered with two community representatives to interview ten shortlisted candidates for the position over two days. I also joined a São Paulo community meetup, Wikisampa 11 and had dinner and drinks with community members on Friday and Saturday.

By Vitor Mazuco (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The interview process is an innovative partnership with the Brazilian community and it is going really well. It is truly a Wiki-community collaboration. User:Castelobranco and User:Everton137 were nominated through a community process to join the interviews. The three of us worked together on the interview plan and met as a panel with each candidate for a little over an hour. We debriefed on the candidates and were in agreement on the candidates who we would like to have continue in the process. It was a valuable experience for the candidates as well and gave them an immediate taste of life in the Wikimedia world.

The innovation doesn’t stop at the interviews. Our finalist candidates will begin a public assignment (designed on-wiki) this week that requires them to work with the Wikimedia community and each other to complete a brief research assignment. We will all have an opportunity to see them work collaboratively in the community. This will provide valuable insights as we narrow to a smaller priority list of candidates who will come to San Francisco for final interviews. Many thanks to the Brazilian community for nominating candidates, suggesting the collaborative approach and for participating actively in the process.

Wikisampa 11 was held on Saturday at the cafe in the very cool Centro Cultural de São Paulo. We had a great group of Wikipedians in attendance along with some interested newcomers and a few candidates from the interview process. Included in the group attending was User:Yanguas who has 98,491 edits and counting in the article namespace (167,469 total) since joining the project on May 31, 2006. That’s over 80 edits every single day for over 5 years! Incredible!

Topics of conversation (those that I was involved in) included the recently launched Grand Prix challenge focused on improving 5,000 articles for an offline version of Portuguese Wikipedia, opportunities to work with higher education to increase contributions to Wikipedia and challenges of being welcoming to newbies in order to expand the Portuguese editing community. I also had a fascinating discussion on the social impacts of technology.


Barry Newstead leads Wikimedia’s efforts to support the growth of our projects in priority geographies around the world including Brazil. He is the Chief Global Development Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Year in Review – and the Road Ahead – for Global Development

I just passed my first anniversary since I joined the Wikimedia Foundation and we created the Global Development team. Below, I have summarized some highlights from our past work, and the opportunities and challenges we face in achieving our goals – please visit Meta for a more detailed version of this report.

Why we exist

At the heart, the Global Development team’s role is to help the community to grow and thrive in places where we have not yet achieved our movement’s potential. At a time when Wikimedia’s editor community (dominated by Global North editors) is ebbing and readership on the personal computer is plateauing, we need to be proactive in working to create strong communities in the Global South, where more than half of Internet users live today and an overwhelming share of future Internet users will come aboard. The foundation has set clear goals in our strategic plan to reach 1 billion readers by 2015 and to increase the number of active editors to 200,000 with 37% from the Global South.

The Past Year for the Global Development team

Building a diverse team:

A year ago, we were a team of four with a range of foundation-wide responsibilities. Since then, we have built a diverse (and I’d say very talented) team – a mix of experienced Wikipedians and folks who bring valuable new capabilities. Though we will continue to grow a bit in 2011/12, most positions will be filled in India and Brazil.

Executing effectively:

While we were building the plane, we were flying it too! We had important accomplishments, all of which happily involved close partnership with our community around the world. Some of the highlights included:

  • Wikipedia’s 10th Anniversary celebration was a great success with events in over 200 locations, many of which received special edition T-shirts and buttons that helped to bond our world-wide community. We also garnered incredible media coverage.
  • We launched our India catalyst initiative with efforts to help build the community via visits by Jimmy and myself, along with support for community work on outreach. Media coverage of our (community and WMF) activities added momentum to our work. In June, we launched our first program – the India Education Program.
  • Our grants program more than doubled, implementing initiatives large and small. In addition, we continue to provide support for Wikimania and will enable a large contingent of Wikimedians from over 20 countries to attend Wikimania in August.
  • In close partnership with community developers, we invested to improve the tools available for offline projects with the integration of OpenZIM and a usability upgrade for the Kiwix reader.
  • We conducted our first systematic survey of the global editor community, translated by volunteers into 22 languages and completed by over 5,000 editors. We also embarked on a research effort to understand the needs of mobile users in India and Brazil.
  • We worked closely with chapters involved in fundraising both improve the fundraising agreement and resolve some difficult issues regarding international funds transfers.
  • We also managed to improve our joint compliance regarding chapter agreements, which places the relationship between chapters and WMF on a stronger footing.

Not a bad year for our little team, though there have been bumps in the road. Two areas where I would say we didn’t get the job done:

  • We did not make as much progress on our mobile work. I take responsibility for this and have been acting aggressively to get us off to a fast start in 2011/12 – through additions to the team, greater focus and attention from Kul and me, efforts to accelerate discussions with partners, and close work with our Mobile Engineering team to quickly strengthen our mobile portfolio.
  • Despite amazing progress, we didn’t get our new online store launched. We expect to launch in July, and I’m excited to see what the community thinks.

The year ahead

Our team has signed up to tackle two critical foundation-wide goals for 2011/12: Reverse the editor decline, and dramatically increase mobile. We aim to contribute significantly to the goal of returning our active editors per month to 95,000 and to increase mobile page views to 2 billion, both by June 2012.

Global Development’s efforts to reverse the editor decline revolve around our work with the community in the Global South and the scaling of the Public Policy Initiative into the Global Education program. In the next few months, we will expand the India Education Program, launch additional programs in India, start work in Brazil, support the launch of education programs in new geographies, and make grants to chapters and like-minded groups while focusing on editor community health and growth. Our communications team will support this effort with media and communications work that highlights “contribution,” which will start in India with an [Edit] India campaign. Our research team will capture insights from the editor survey and will begin to generate insights from our own data to help identify opportunities and challenges.

On the mobile end, we are beginning to approach mobile operators and handset makers to improve the prominence of Wikipedia in their offerings. We would like to secure deals through which mobile operators offer Wikipedia access for free (no data charges). In partnership with the Mobile Engineering team, we plan to invest  both in creating applications for the major operating systems and in developing features that enrich the experience and create ways to contribute.

In addition, you will see other important work happening on the Global Development team:

  • We have doubled our grants budget again to $600,000 and will work to develop grant programs that achieve the goals laid out in our strategic plan. Specifically, we plan to start tracking the change in active editors in the geographies where we make grants over the next year.
  • We will continue to build on our initial work on offline projects. By the end of 2011/12, we aim to double the number of deployments of offline Wikipedia around the world.
  • We will support Wikimania in Haifa with a $100,000 grant, as well as contribute $130,000 from our own budget to support scholarships for over 70 attendees. We will also provide support for Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC.

The Year Ahead for me

My first year was a great learning experience, and I feel I’ve a clearer sense of both the opportunities and challenges ahead. My greatest challenge this past year was the sheer breadth of the Global Development portfolio. My goal for 2011/12 is to focus more of my time on the top priority areas of growing the editor base in India and Brazil, and implementing our mobile strategy.

For me, success in 2011/12 will mean:

  • Mobile partnerships that reduce the cost of accessing Wikipedia to zero (or close to zero) and marketing Wikipedia on the mobile in key countries in the Global South that cover over 500 million mobile users.
  • Wikimedia’s mobile services expanding, including quality apps on Android, Windows, iPhone and Blackberry.
  • An initial set of contribution tools integrated into the mobile offering; our mobile site works well on a wide range of phones.
  • Strong  growth in the India editor community with clear results in terms of editor growth from WMF’s India program activities.
  • A shift in the Brazilian editor community toward healthy indicators, returning to growth in the editor community, and successfully launching WMF’s Brazil team in the second half of the year.
  • The Global Development team functions cohesively as a group and partners well with the community, other WMF teams, chapters and our partners.
  • The staff on the Global Development team continues to grow professionally and maximize the impact of their work.

We move forward into the coming year with a clear purpose of meeting our goals and learning along the way, while also collaborating with a wide range of groups and individuals in the movement. Onwards!

Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer