When Facebook was desperately trying to game the Indian regulatory process to get approval for its "zero-rating" system (where it would bribe Indian ISPs to give it the power to decide which services would be free to access, and which would be capped and metered), one of the frequent arguments in favor of this "poor internet for poor people" was that the Wikimedia Foundation had struck similar deals in poor countries around the world, freeflagging Wikipedia use on networks that were otherwise strictly capped and metered.
But Wikipedia's zero-rating was always hugely controversial and full of unintended consequences -- and research on zero rating has found that its primary beneficiaries aren't poor people, but wealthy elites in poor countries, who used the "real internet" when they were on home or office wifi, and freeflagged services during their commutes.
Wikimedia has since seen its zero-rated use dropping off a cliff, which has conclusively settled the argument. Wikimedia has a laudable goal: to incorporate input from all over the world, from all walks of life, into the canonical encyclopedia we all rely upon. But zero rating wasn't doing that, so, to their eternal credit, Wikimedia is trying something different.
They're not saying exactly what, though: they do cite a very successful experiment in Nigeria that recruited Nollywood stars to create video-ads that brought 15 million Nigerians to the service.
One of the critical issues we identified as part of this research was low awareness of Wikipedia outside of North America and Europe. To address this, we experimented with new projects and partnerships to increase awareness of Wikipedia, and we’ve experienced some initial success in this work. In Iraq, for example, we raised awareness of Wikipedia by more than 30%. In Nigeria, we partnered with Nigerian community members and Nollywood stars to introduce more than 15 million people to Wikipedia and how it works. These successes have given us several ideas for where we may take our partnership work next, and over the coming year, we will explore other ways we can leverage the findings from our research and the Wikipedia Zero program to direct future work with partners.
To create all the world’s knowledge, we need participation from the world. However, we know that there are many barriers to making this vision a reality, data affordability being just one. We look forward to continuing to explore, evaluate, and measure the impact of our partnership opportunities and more as we build for the future of Wikimedia.
Building for the future of Wikimedia with a new approach to partnerships [Wikimedia Foundation]
(Image: ARipstra (WMF), CC-BY-SA)