How new research on Wikimedia audiences can help achieve knowledge equity

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In December 2021, the Wikimedia Foundation released the first in a series of data-driven studies exploring the level of trust and understanding that people in different regions have in our projects and work, examining the views of groups underrepresented in our projects. The initial study focused on the United States. 

Today, we released data and analysis exploring community sentiments in Brazil, Nigeria, and South Africa. Alongside this data, we also launched a new data visualization tool that will allow greater visibility and increased potential for applying this research to our knowledge equity work and raising awareness amongst public audiences. 

Guided by the Wikimedia Movement’s strategic direction, the data opens opportunities for all of us to examine equity gaps in our projects through a fresh lens. It expands on the work the Wikimedia Foundation Communications Department is doing in regions to better understand perceptions of our work and the levels of trust and awareness people have in our projects. It also supports our “Open the Knowledge” initiative launched last year to unite our equity work under a common theme in order to bring more attention to these connected efforts. Through these insights, we can support avenues to close gaps in our projects across the movement, building toward the needs and preferences of the people we hope to reach with our free knowledge mission.  

In gathering this data, there have been different questions asked and different contexts examined depending on the country-focus. Demographics on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion vary significantly by country; as such, the methodology and focus was adjusted to account for these differences. While the data provides a snapshot of what diverse communities think about our projects and work, considerations of age, income, and community population size must also be examined in gleaning insights from the research. The research in South Africa, for example, must be considered against low awareness in the country of Wikipedia overall.

The data presents actionable insights for our work. Among these, the lack of representation perceived around local languages by Black South Africans is a key barrier to using Wikipedia, while being represented on Wikipedia is most important to Black and Asian women and LGBTQ+ communities. The lack of representation perceived around local languages by Black South Africans is a key barrier to using Wikipedia. Though Igbo and smaller ethnic groups in Nigeria do not feel represented on Wikipedia, their usage is still high, opening opportunities to make  them feel more represented on the site. Similarly, Black women in Brazil feel there are not enough articles that represent their race, religion and cultural background. However, they are also likely to consider using Wikipedia in the future and generally have positive views of the platform, creating an opportunity for more engagement. 

As with the previous release in the series, we met with and presented these findings to a group of Wikimedia volunteers and organizers focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Their insights continue to shape this effort, and we are deeply grateful for their role in making this work both visible and actionable. 

Any feedback or questions about this research can be submitted on the report’s talk page. Please share it with others and let us know how you are applying it to your work. We will be building further on the series, so there is more research in different markets to come. Stay tuned for more updates on Diff. 

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