Building for the future of Wikimedia with a new approach to partnerships

Photo by Zack McCune, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Wikimedia 2030, the global discussion to define the future of the Wikimedia movement, created a bold vision for the future of Wikimedia and the role we want to play in the world as a movement. With this shared vision for our movement’s future in mind, the Wikimedia Foundation is evolving how we work with partners to address some of the critical barriers to participating in free knowledge globally.
After careful evaluation, the Wikimedia Foundation has decided to discontinue one of its partnership approaches, the Wikipedia Zero program. Wikipedia Zero was created in 2012 to address one barrier to participating in Wikipedia globally: high mobile data costs. Through the program, we partnered with mobile operators to waive mobile data fees for their customers to freely access Wikipedia on mobile devices. Over the course of this year, no additional Wikipedia Zero partnerships will be formed, and the remaining partnerships with mobile operators will expire.
In the program’s six year tenure, we have partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges. Since 2016, we have seen a significant drop off in adoption and interest in the program. This may be due, in part, to the rapidly shifting mobile industry, as well as changes in mobile data costs. At this same time, we conducted extensive research [1][2] to better understand the full spectrum of barriers to accessing and participating in Wikipedia.
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.
Wikimedia Foundation

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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It’s a pity the post doesn’t give more detail about the motivation for dropping Zero.

Thanks for the decision. The huge investment in Wikipedia Zero was always hard to justify based on its returns: it was only acceptable because “something had to be done” in Africa and other countries. Additionally, this will simplify our stance on net neutrality.
Hopefully, grants for local activities can continue growing with a bottom-up approach. As for top-down technological solutions, maybe an additional cache datacentre (in Central Africa?) would serve those users better.
It would be good to know when Wikipedia Zero expires for each operator/country and globally, so that we can close the related bugs (like https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T129845 ).

Thanks for the decision. The huge investment in Wikipedia Zero was always hard to justify based on its returns: it was only acceptable because “something had to be done” in Africa and other countries. Additionally, this will simplify our stance on net neutrality.
Hopefully, grants for local activities can continue growing with a bottom-up approach. As for top-down technological solutions, maybe an additional cache datacentre (in Central Africa?) would serve those users better.
It would be good to know when Wikipedia Zero expires for each operator/country and globally, so that we can close the related bugs (like https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T129845 ).

And how do you know there is a “drop off in adoption and interest in the program”? By whom? End users? How would that be measured?

I appreciate the shutdown of Wikipedia Zero. Europe had a tough fight for net neutrality with Facebook trying to spread Facebooknet a.k.a. Facebook Zero. I had a tough time arguing for affordable network access while well known companies provided their services for free to support their market position.

I’m sorry to see that a for profit enterprise like Facebook used no cost data to attract users. I think it is in everyone’s interest to have a world wide Wiki connection of people with each other sharing unique information.

The message sounds a bit like a statements by politicians, anyway insider speech.. I understand that it may not be worthwhile to invest time to negotiate new partnerships. Why discontinue? Is there a cost to it for wikimedia? What cost?

Reasonabe descision (#NetNeutrality)! Agree with Nemo above.