Wikimedia 2030: Wikimedia’s role in shaping the future of the information commons

This report was commissioned by the Wikimedia Foundation. Read more about the authors. You can read a PDF version of this report here, as well as the foreward and introductory notes here. You can find excerpts from our interviews with global experts here.

CONTENTS

Demographics 2030
Emerging Platforms 2030
Misinformation & Verification 2030
Literacy 2030
Open Knowledge 2030
Expect the Unexpected by 2030
Across the Research: Rising Themes
Recommendations for the Wikipedia Movement
Discussion Questions
Citations

DEMOGRAPHICS 2030

Who will be in the world in 2030?

Wikimedia envisions “a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.” But the Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia and the other free knowledge projects like Wikimedia Commons, do not currently serve the entire globe. And realizing this vision might become even more difficult by 2030 as the global population shifts to favor areas and languages in which the projects are less used.

A country’s use of Wikimedia projects correlates directly with its economic strength. The 10 countries that generate the most traffic for Wikimedia[1] are also among the world’s 20 largest economies.[2] The United States accounted for 23 percent of all Wikimedia traffic in 2017, with Japan second at 8 percent. Europe and North America combined accounted for 63 percent of Wikimedia’s total traffic.

These high-traffic regions are not predicted to see the highest rate of population growth. The global population is expected to reach 8.4 billion by 2030, a 15 percent jump from 2015. Low-income regions have a projected 35 percent growth by 2030, with Africa growing fastest at 40 percent. High-income and middle-income regions are projected to experience moderate growth over this period, with growth rates of 5 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Europe is expected to decline in population by 2030.[3]

The urban population is increasing relative to the rural population in every region.[4] Asia and Africa were the least urbanized regions in 2015, and they are expected to experience the fastest rates of urbanization.

Wikimedia must focus on serving people in high-growth regions to respond to these trends. Africa currently accounts for a small portion of Wikimedia traffic, but the region presents a crucial opportunity for growth as its mobile and fixed IP traffic are predicted to increase substantially.

Population growth

  • The global population will grow by 15 percent to 8.4 billion people between 2015 and 2030.[5]
  • The rate of growth in low-income regions will far outpace high- and middle-income regions.[6]
  • Africa will grow the fastest with projections that the continent’s population will increase by more than 40 percent.[7]
  • Europe’s population will plateau then decline during this period.[8]
  • Urban areas will continue to grow faster than rural areas globally.[9]
  • Africa will have the youngest median age by 2030.[10]

Aging of the global population

  • Overall, the global workforce will age by 2030.
  • The aging workforce will create labor shortages and other problems for some countries, as already seen in Japan.[11]

Languages used

  • Mandarin will remain the most widely spoken language.[12]
  • Spanish will become the second most widely spoken language, with English, Hindi, and Arabic following in third through fifth places.[13]

Global literacy

  • The proportion of the global population with no formal education will decrease.[14]

Wikimedia usage demographics

  • In 2017, 49 percent of Wikimedia contributors were writing in English or simple English.[15]
  • Wikimedia editors are overwhelmingly men (90 percent).[16]
  • Most of Wikimedia’s contributors and users are not located in parts of world where the fastest growing populations are projected between now and 2030.

Strategy questions

  • How can Wikimedia expand content and recruit editors in the parts of the world expected to grow most quickly over the next 15 years?
  • How can Wikimedia projects be made more accessible to aging populations — and can those people be recruited as contributors?
  • What shifts in editing protocols, sensibilities, or media may be needed to serve the users from distinct new cultures and geographies?
Stefano Ravalli (CC BY-SA 2.0)

EMERGING PLATFORMS 2030

How will people around the world be using communications technologies to find, create, and share information?

There are many emerging information technologies to watch over the next 15 years, each of which has the potential to serve as:

  • competition for the attention of Wikimedia project users,
  • content or topics for Wikimedia projects,
  • potential opportunities for distributing Wikimedia projects’ content, or
  • vehicles for spreading the ethos of open editing and sharing of content.

A Pew Research Center study suggests that while technology usage rates in emerging economies are accelerating, “people in advanced economies still use the internet more, and own more high-tech gadgets” — especially those who are young and affluent.[17] In practice, this means that those just coming to the internet tend to use inexpensive mobile devices that prioritize social and chat apps, while people with more resources are juggling multiple, highly personalized methods and tools for accessing online information. This contrasts sharply with the desktop, browser, and search-engine driven environment which has enabled Wikipedia to become one of the world’s most used sites.

Fragmentation of platforms and user habits is slated to accelerate. In two widely cited reports on technology innovation and usage, Mary Meeker and Amy Webb lay out the most likely new content types and platforms to mature between now and 2030 — several of which, not incidentally, use mobile devices as a base for attracting users and shifting media consumption behaviors.[18] These include bots, interactive interfaces, voice-driven personal assistants, and toys that are powered by artificial intelligence (AI); virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for news, education and gaming; wearables; and ubiquitous interactive screens.

At the same time, people continue to use analog and offline forms of communication. In the United States, traditional offline media formats including live TV, radio, DVRs, and game consoles still dominate users’ daily time — although, as is often the case, habits differ by generation with younger users gravitating to mobile.

After decades of digital disruption, older communications technologies do not vanish. Instead they linger and sometimes become more targeted to adjust to shifting consumer habits. Offline formats are also useful in geographic areas where internet access is limited. The Wikimedia Foundation’s New Readers team has already been exploring possible formats for offline access to Wikipedia including mobile PDFs, digital classroom systems, solar-powered terminals, and pre-loaded apps.

These and other similar technology predictions are provocative. They provide useful context for the Wikimedia movement as it works to develop strategy. At the same time, such predictions have limitations. Consulting or industry firms seeking to prove their value to customers or to stimulate investment in particular markets might be much more bullish on the prospects for certain technologies than is warranted. The focus on gadgets, platforms, and products downplays the importance of how users might creatively adapt both old and new technologies to serve public good based on their own needs and constraints.

What’s more, the entire tech prediction industry tends to downplay negative consequences. These include embedded bias in the design of automated systems, the loss of a shared public space as proprietary apps and devices gain popularity, digital overload among users, and the frailty of digital information.

Internet and device use

  • The percentage of the global population that use the internet is predicted to rise from 44 percent to 58 percent between 2016 and 2021.[19]
  • IP traffic is predicted to grow three­fold, with the fastest growth in the Middle East and Africa between 2016 and 2021.[20]
  • Devices and connections per capita, average speeds, and average traffic per capita per month all expected to rise globally.[21]
  • India and China lead the list of countries with projected new mobile subscribers by 2020.[22]
  • Access to the web via mobile remains low — under 40 percent — for much of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.[23]
  • Between 2016 and 2021, one estimate shows mobile data traffic increasing sevenfold.[24]
  • Lack of local content has been cited as one factor in slower adoption of mobile.[25]
  • Getting information via messaging apps is seen as the equivalent to information passed by word-of-mouth in some regions.[26]

Wikimedia research

For the first time, in 2017, the percentage of users accessing Wikipedia via mobile devices exceeded those accessing via personal computers.[27]

Strategy questions

  • Given that Wikipedia is the most used of all of the Wikimedia projects, and mobile seems increasingly likely to be the way that new users will access these sites, how can mobile access to existing content and editing capabilities continue to be improved?
  • How can these projects be retooled for a future in which content is increasingly visual, audio, or immersive?
  • Which new platforms and technologies seem most promising for expanding access to knowledge?
  • How can a continual culture of research and development be built into the Wikimedia projects so that new approaches and platforms are regularly being evaluated and tested?
Brett Taylor (CC BY 2.0)

MISINFORMATION & VERIFICATION 2030

How will people find trustworthy sources of knowledge and information?

Research shows that, around the world, Wikimedia projects are vulnerable to government, political, cultural, or profit-driven censorship and misinformation campaigns, as well as outright falsified content. Various actors will exploit current and future technological developments to their benefit, whether it means faking a video, developing new ways to cut off access to content online, or deploying ever-more intelligent bots.

Much recent concern has emerged internationally about the political uses of misinformation to influence open democracies from the 2016 United States elections to recent European electoral contests and to Africa. But the challenge goes beyond politics; commerce, personal interactions, and every sphere of information exchange is also affected. And Wikipedia, in its very essence, has the same vulnerability to misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information campaigns that open democracies do; the open platform is both its weakness and its strength. “[T]here has been much discussion of how information disorder is influencing democracies. More concerning, however, are the long-term implications of dis-information campaigns designed specifically to sow mistrust and confusion and to sharpen existing sociocultural divisions using nationalistic, ethnic, racial and religious tensions.”[28]

The deliberate spread of misinformation can be traced to some of the earliest recorded history, with examples dating back to early written history, but it is the ways in which such information is created and how it travels that have changed. At one time the newspaper was cutting-edge technology; now there is a possibility (if small) of human-level intelligence or even greater than human intelligence, known as super-intelligence, being created by 2030. Such developments will both increase the sophistication of misinformation and make it more challenging to detect.

Existing and emerging technologies also offer opportunities to enhance public knowledge. The challenges Wikimedia projects face are true, too, for the entire open knowledge ecosystem. It is crucial that the Wikimedia movement work with others in this ecosystem to recognize and combat organized efforts to mislead the public as well as remain vigilant, educated, and nimble in meeting technological change.

Technology creates many opportunities for information to be created via new means, such as artificial intelligence (AI), bots, big data, and virtual reality. The unprecedented surge in the automation of knowledge creation and analysis brings both advantages and challenges. On the plus side, these tools are helping information producers; for example, the Associated Press has written about technologies such as drones and robotic cameras that have augmented reporting in ways that would not be possible by simply handing humans a camera. Deploying machine learning can also help mine information from sources that would otherwise be opaque to analysis, such as audio and video.[29] But the development of new tools can also lead to more misleading content that could pose challenges when sourcing Wikipedia entries. In response, between now and 2030, the Wikimedia movement will need to remain alert and develop new methods of verification that match new technological capabilities that may potentially be used to spread misinformation. Technology also presents myriad obstacles to accessing the content delivered on Wikimedia pl­atforms as the trend toward mobile is rapidly challenging Wikipedia’s web-based, desktop-accessed model.[30] In addition, there are new means of content delivery such as wearables, immersive rigs, and voice-activated digital assistants to consider as new platforms. With new modes of information delivery come new opportunities to falsify or mislead.

Governments and political actors have the power to both suppress and distort content by persecuting activists, journalists, academics, and other citizens, as well as to restrict access to Wikimedia platforms. For example, in China, the government has not only restricted access to the internet and sites such as Google and Facebook but also to Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service and virtual private networks. China’s activities in this sphere are known as the “Great Firewall of China.”[31]

Such government control not only reduces source material for Wikipedia editors but can also result in an overall chilling effect on freedom of expression for those seeking to produce or verify information. A related trend among governments and political actors is purposeful propagation of disinformation or propaganda. This not only weakens sources and, therefore, content on Wikipedia but also creates an overall culture of doubt related to the reliability of online information. With respect to access, primary concerns will be censoring or blocking the Wikipedia platform, blocking online access altogether, and monitoring online access.

The rise of commercial social media platforms over the last decade, and the concurrent decline of and trust in traditional modern news sources, creates concerns about new ways that misinformation is being filtered and delivered online and used in public discourse, especially with respect to sponsored research, advertorials, hired shills, and clickbait content. The next frontier in understanding how to combat misinformation involves developing a more sophisticated grasp on how networks help to spread it and may involve ubiquitous fact-checking.[32] Threats to access come from battles over net neutrality, filter bubbles, the rise of proprietary apps and platforms, and corporations’ willingness (or unwillingness) to provide access to Wikipedia content from within their own content properties and devices.

Technology

  • “Human-level machine intelligence,” the ability to match human skills in most professions, has a 10 percent probability by 2022 and 50 percent by 2040; super intelligence could come soon after.[33]
  • Supercomputers will exceed human capabilities in almost all areas by 2020 to 2030.[34]
  • Incipient technologies seem likely to present challenges to discerning what is real and what is fake.[35]

Governments

  • Textbooks and reference sources are the targets of crackdowns by repressive regimes[36]
  • The most recent analysis of press freedom worldwide from Reporters Without Borders declared that the globe is “darkening.”[37]
  • Governments are purposefully breeding misinformation.[38]
  • Problems are so pronounced and pervasive that a taxonomy of both misinformation and disinformation shows multiple tactics to spot and watch in the coming years.[39]

Innovations

  • There is innovation around fact-checking to help citizens find reliable sources.[40]
  • Researchers, developers, journalists, and others are working on ways to automate parts of the fact-checking and verification process, helping to reveal the pathways by which messages travel across social media and other transmission channels and developing tools to promote greater understanding of the ways in which information is altered.[41]
  • Social media platforms are being pressured to help solve misinformation and propaganda problems globally.[42]
  • Governments are adopting or considering laws and policies requiring more transparency on the spread of misinformation on social media sites and online, as well as regulatory measures to prevent it from happening.[43]

Wikimedia research

  • Outright censorship of Wikipedia articles is waning.[44] Strategies the Wikimedia movement has developed to combat censorship are working; but it’s important to remain vigilant.
  • Wikipedia is developing new tools such as the Objective Revision Evaluation Service (ORES) to help editors spot potentially “damaging” edits.
  • Wikipedia’s open contribution model is poorly understood in geographies where there is low awareness and is, therefore, viewed as a weakness.[45]
  • Wikipedia’s deployment of HTTPS that prevents censors from seeing which page within a website was visited “has been a good one in terms of ensuring accessibility to knowledge,” according to a Berkman Klein Center study. In general, technological solutions (e.g. HTTPS) to technological problems (such as outright blocking) can sometimes bring relief — until the next technological challenge emerges.[46]

Strategy questions

  • How can Wikimedia encourage and embrace experiments in artificial intelligence and machine learning that could help enrich Wikipedia content?
  • How will Wikimedia track developments in journalism, academia, and technology for new ways to fact-check and verify information that can be used as sources for Wikimedia platforms, such as evaluating video or other new media?
  • How will Wikimedia collaborate with other public interest organizations to advocate for press freedom, free speech, universal internet access, and other policy goals that ensure access and the free flow of information
  • How can Wikimedia use emerging technologies to build and deepen local content around the word?
US Department of Education (CC BY 2.0)

LITERACY 2030

How will the world learn in the future?

Global literacy rates are increasing, although they vary in different geographic, political, and economic contexts. The Wikimedia projects have a role — and some might argue an obligation — in advancing literacy worldwide.

But the literacy of the future looks different from basic literacy skills of the past. Learners of the future will need to be versed beyond the nuts and bolts of language and numbers. They will need to know how to make productive use of new technologies as educational materials and instruction are delivered in new ways. They will also need the ability to discern and contextualize the information itself, to learn not just how to make coherent arguments based on facts but also to recognize propaganda and misinformation and expose them as such.

Today the Wikimedia projects are predominantly text- and image-based. As the ways in which people acquire, create, and share information change, text- and image-based modes of communication may become less prevalent. Wikimedia projects will need to adapt to provide a platform for new and evolving modes of communication.

While this research did not encompass a significant study of trends in formal education, educational technology is a booming sector. Emerging forms of educational technology include learning as gaming, 3D visualization and imaging applications, and Augmented Reality (AR). These new forms allow learners to explore their subjects in multiple sensory dimensions. Expansion of technology in educational settings suggests that the Wikimedia movement and other open knowledge sources and platforms will have new opportunities to develop free educational applications for the many schools and learners around the globe who are under-resourced. Populations with access to open knowledge sources will hold an information advantage over those with blocked or limited access.

Wikimedia is exploring effective ways to partner with educators and students through initiatives like Wiki Education, but many educators remain skeptical about incorporating Wikipedia in their courses. The Wikimedia movement can help counteract this perception — and strengthen students’ digital and media learning skills — by increasing its efforts to partner with educators and involve students in contributing to Wikipedia and adhering to its strict citation guidelines. Finding ways to utilize or crowdsource other rising forms of educational content — including audio, video, and even virtual reality or AR — will help Wikimedia projects keep pace with shifting trends in learning.

Literacy

  • Rates of literacy have been rising globally over the past six decades.[47]
  • Research from UNESCO predicts that our understanding of basic literacy skills will expand beyond reading and numeracy to include facility with using digital devices.[48]
  • Online knowledge-seekers are looking for short, compact, and visual ways of engaging with content and acquiring new skills..[49]

Technology and learning

  • Despite gaps in access, educational technology is in growing use.[50]
  • The business of paid e-learning is expanding rapidly, particularly in Africa and Eastern Europe.[51]
  • Experts from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East believe that the formal education system is failing youth in emerging markets around the world and that people in these regions are seeking new ways to consume and process knowledge online.[52]

Wikimedia research

  • Wikipedia’s future users will need a platform that allows them to create and transfer knowledge in non-text formats with a strong emphasis in oral and visual resources.[53]
  • Leaders in historically marginalized communities in the western world share concerns similar to those in emerging markets about the current text-based modes of consumption on Wikipedia. The editing guidelines about who and what is cited do not always match the cultural preservation systems in these communities.[54]
Ajita Majumdar (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Strategy questions

  • To what level of “literacy” should Wikimedia aim its content? How can it better reach individuals in countries with lower levels of literacy?
  • As education becomes increasingly tech-enabled and personalized, what additional strategies could the Wikimedia movement consider in order to expand the use of its content by educators and students?
  • How will the rise of other modalities of learning and generating knowledge (AI, immersive, 3D printing, etc.) affect the usability of Wikimedia platforms within formal and informal education settings.
Anna Carol (CC BY-SA 2.0)

OPEN KNOWLEDGE 2030

How will we share culture, ideas, and information?

Galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs), along with other content- and asset-rich cultural organizations, are opening collections and archives and making them freely available online. This global movement demonstrates the public’s appetite for free open access to the knowledge, expertise, and collections GLAM organizations hold. However, progress is uneven as GLAM institutions with the greatest resources outpace smaller and less well-funded organizations, and searches for content across organizations remain difficult. Wikimedia can play a key role both in expanding access and improving the end user experience.

Today, many GLAM institutions have built their own singular methods to access their collections, making navigation across multiple collections onerous for the end user. Burgeoning creativity in the creation of engagement tools and platforms like proprietary apps and games also have differing use criteria and permissions and are too infrequently shared across organizations. A helpful trend toward standardizing metadata could make cross-organizational and cross-collection searches feasible. Europeana is an example of a concerted effort across countries and collections to make materials searchable.

The Wikimedia movement supports a growing number of partnerships with GLAM institutions around the world. Through these efforts, the movement could do more to create and encourage utilization of cross-organizational platforms. Some institutions hold source materials that incorporate important community ephemera, cultural historical documentation, oral histories, and other materials that do not match Wikipedia’s strict citation protocols. Finding ways to incorporate these as searchable cultural assets could offer rich knowledge and information for Wikimedia users.

Libraries are becoming more lively a­ctors in the open knowledge ecosystem, becoming digital portals to information as well as physical spaces for convening and study. They frequently offer digital access to collections and source materials, along with training in how to access and use digital materials. Libraries are educating users around misinformation, fraud, and propaganda online. Between now and 2030, libraries will increasingly serve as technology gateways, introducing people to new tools like 3D printers or virtual reality (VR).

Between now and 2030, there are opportunities for the Wikimedia movement and GLAM institutions to gain allies in the open knowledge movement and to find creative ways to connect users to new knowledge. A few examples:

  • Developing digital platforms for under-resourced GLAM organizations on a global basis
  • Identifying protocols for citing new kinds of source materials
  • Helping to build a search gateway that crosses collections and organizations
  • Engaging GLAM organizations as contributors of content and as editors
  • Enriching Wikimedia projects through purposeful recruitment of non-western collections and archives
  • The Wikimedia movement should also watch other open knowledge trends likely to accelerate between now and 2030. Improvements in voice-to-text platforms, translation software, and accessibility tools all will make materials easier to share and access online. Training users to identify and counter misinformation will also become paramount — a ubiquitous part of literacy training for all open knowledge organizations.

GLAM organizations and open collections

  • Trend toward digital open access to collections.[55]
  • Experimentation in digital offerings proliferating.[56]
  • Libraries becoming hubs for access to both physical and digital collections.[57]

Ease of access

  • Translation software will improve.[58]
  • Voice to text will improve.[59]
  • Ease of use will increase for vision-impaired people and others with special access needs.[60]

Wikimedia research

  • Wikimedia projects are expanding collaboration with GLAM institutions.[61]
  • Individual Wikipedia chapters are reaching out to language minority populations and collections.[62]
  • Wikimedia is participating in collaborations to standardize metadata.[63]

Strategy questions

  • What role can materials like oral histories, personal photo collections, or other documentation play within the Wikimedia movement’s citation practices? Can the movement help foster connections with repositories of these source materials that can enrich Wikipedia’s content?
  • How might Wikimedians contribute their platform expertise to benefit smaller, less-formal, and less-institutionalized GLAM partners?
  • Could the Wikimedia movement benefit from expansion of in-person, physical programming? What might such programming comprise and how might it be different in different countries and regional centers?
  • How can the Wikimedia movement influence GLAM and other institutions to encourage and facilitate policies for free and open access to digital content?

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED BY 2030

How can we know what the world will look like in 2030 — and what the Wikimedia movement’s role in it will be?

From 2015 to 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation has been pursuing a variety of perspectives to inform the Wikimedia 2030 process through consultation with movement members; expert interviews and group discussions; and scanning of industry, government, and academic research. Each of these methods has its own strengths and weaknesses. Combining them helps to bolster the weak spots, but there’s still more work to be done in anticipating the unexpected in the coming years.

“How can we prepare for what’s likely to happen next?” should not be not a static question asked periodically for strategic planning purposes and then set aside. There are numerous possible future shifts that were not considered in depth during the strategy process such as antibiotic resistance, unforeseen conflicts, the impact of automation on work, climate catastrophes, cyber warfare, and improvements in medical technology. Building in the capacity to periodically project and respond to coming changes in technology, policy, demographics, learning, and media habits — and finding the volunteers and partners who are excited and prepared to help — is central to making the Wikimedia projects flourish.

There are a few different tools for thinking through unexpected futures. One is scenario planning — a method that provides enough narrative structure and detail to allow planners to more easily imagine future consequences. Confronting different futures also forces participants to consider their own assumptions and biases.

Another is speculative fiction, sometimes coupled with speculative design of products or services. While current technologies and political conditions often shape the possibilities explored in such works, these stories can, in turn, influence the creation of new technologies and political responses. Foundations, corporations, and governments have commissioned science fiction writers to think through the implications of their ideas for various sectors. There are also already-popular books that address concerns central to the Wikimedia movement. (See further reading below.)

“[A]ll organizing is science fiction,” writes Walidah Imarisha in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. “We are dreaming new worlds every time we think about the changes we want to make in the world.”[64] The Wikimedia projects are themselves the product of a utopian vision: “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”

Of course, both scenario planning and science fiction are only as imaginative as the people who create them. If the contributors are too homogenous then the quality of information and insight suffers. It is important to have contributors represent varied geographic regions, races, genders, and ideological contexts.

With its global reach and visibility, the Wikimedia movement is well-positioned to gather and consider speculative visions from across the globe and apply these visions to understanding how Wikimedia projects should evolve.

Further reading

Knight Foundation scenario planning report, Imagining the Futures, 2017, available on knightfoundation.org.

Black Swan: Impact of the highly improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Random House, 2007).

Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby (MIT Press, 2013).

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (Tor Books, 2017).

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Random House, 2011).

Infomocracy by Malka Older (Tor Books, 2016).

Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn (William Morrow, 2015).

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown (AK Press, 2015).

“Moving Toward Science Fiction Thinking” by Deji Bryce Olukotun (Tor.com).

Strategy questions

  • How can the Wikimedia movement — with all its insight and knowledge — build the future together?
  • Who gets to shape the future?
  • How can our collective action shape the future we envision?

ACROSS THE RESEARCH: RISING THEMES

An exciting prospect for any researcher is a confluence of themes rising from disparate subject areas. In pursuing our research for this project we frequently had the sense of meeting ourselves coming and going, with similar ideas flowing into the same river from our different streams of inquiry.

We offer five such rising themes here, ideas we encountered repeatedly both in crafting our research briefs and in our interview conversations.

The Wikimedia projects are inspiring. People believe the Wikimedia projects demonstrate the best of what the open web can give humanity: cooperation, global visibility, dedicated volunteers, and clear and continuing value.

The Wikimedia projects are values-based. People perceive the Wikimedia projects as based on a model of restraint and relative civility, showing how even when voices are fractious or polarized there can be consistent process and agreement.

The Wikimedia projects must actively welcome new users and new partners.To thrive, the Wikimedia platforms and movement must reach out purposefully to welcome new users — whether that means students, women, those just coming online across the globe, a greater percentage of people from emerging communities, or partners at GLAM and educational institutions.

Outsiders view the Wikimedia projects as a global utility, not merely a content hub. The Wikimedia projects serve more than individual audiences seeking information; they provide a further body of knowledge valuable to researchers, AI programmers, search engine developers, and others. This means that the projects’ value goes beyond information, and their loss would be felt across many fields and disciplines.

Guard against the complacency of success. While demonstrating the best of the open web, Wikimedia is also viewed by many as fragile, notably closed to newcomers, change-resistant, and vulnerable to the increased buffeting of “the darkening globe.” Observers warn against complacency and urge renewed activism.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE WIKIMEDIA MOVEMENT

Do now

  • Re-articulate and widely share your values statements, and do so in ways that enhance the urgency and the value proposition of the Wikimedia movement.
  • Clarify and reinvigorate the relationship between the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement globally.
  • Clearly define what you mean by the “Wikimedia movement” — who is in it and what roles they play.
  • Engage with other open knowledge players globally, identify areas of common interest, and join forces to mobilize against threats to the 
     open web.
  • Take a proactive role in efforts to solve online misinformation challenges and campaigns, which poses an imminent danger to the Wikimedia movement while also providing a strategic opportunity to create greater public value.
  • Strengthen editing, access, and submission tools for mobile.
  • Use popular social platforms to recruit new movement members and find digestible ways to share timely content and engage users.
  • Make the case for new kinds of volunteers: ambassadors, futurists, designers, connectors, and others.

Do soon

  • Use Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town to complete a concrete plan for making Wikimedia projects invaluable across Africa.
  • Build internal capacity to scan for and respond to major changes in technology, policy, and user habits.
  • Invest in user experience testing and visual design.
  • Prioritize Wikipedia’s credibility, authority, and usability in education.
  • Consider and prepare for Wikimedia’s role in moments of natural and man-made disaster.
  • Reward and celebrate veteran volunteers — but not at the expense of adapting to a changing world.
  • Maximize partnerships with GLAM institutions to engage new movement members in local communities.
  • Connect and partner with philanthropic foundations and donors that are seeking to protect the digital commons and advance open knowledge.

Do by 2030

  • Retool for a more visual, aural, immersive, and tactile media future.
  • Rethink sourcing rules to validate non-Western forms of knowledge and information.
  • Continue to embrace the scale of your aspirations: We’ll never actually know everything, and that itself is beautiful.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

For organizations in the open knowledge ecosystem

  • Mobilization: How will the broader open knowledge movement organize itself to better reach and inform policymakers, legal advocates, and other stakeholders in matters related to the future of the open internet
  • Representation: What joint funding initiatives can help insure that open internet advocates are present at key public policy discussions among internet governance entities such as ICANN, ISOC, IGF, and others that are more local and regional?
  • Policy: How will the open knowledge movement support the growing need for legal work around the globe in defense of free speech, access to information, and open knowledge?

For funders

  • Field-building: Given the increasing frequency and intensity of threats to the digital public square, how can the philanthropic sector advance its own knowledge of relevant global players?
  • Streamlining: How can philanthropy support collaboration among open internet and knowledge organizations in order to advance their collective missions and help avoid duplication and gather strength?
  • Inclusion: How can philanthropy help ensure that new voices participate in the open knowledge movement?
  • Access: How will funders support the public’s right to internet access and open information through philanthropic support for policy initiatives, legal defense funding, and grants for capacity-building among advocacy organizations?
  • Defending veracity: How can philanthropy support the people, organizations, and coalitions working to combat misinformation and build digital literacy?
  • Strengthening cultural connections: What partnerships could philanthropy encourage and support that would build relationships among educators, GLAM organizations, and other nonprofits so that more people and organizations contribute to and benefit from open knowledge?

For the Wikimedia Foundation itself

  • Stewardship: How will the Wikimedia Foundation assert and balance leadership of the Wikimedia movement with its role fostering a robust volunteer culture?
  • Valuing difference: How will the Wikimedia Foundation articulate its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to building a culture that welcomes, encourages, and supports the multiplicity of voices necessary to build the global movement, develop richer content, and become more relevant to more people?
  • Protecting users: How will the Wikimedia Foundation model exemplary institutional behavior around privacy and transparency — and articulate the values and ethics of its policies and practices — in order to serve as a beacon for those critiquing government, corporate, and even nonprofit practices?
  • Partnerships: How will the Wikimedia Foundation use its considerable visibility and influence to work with other open internet and open knowledge allies to advocate for press freedom, free speech, universal internet access, and other policy goals that will ensure the free flow of information?
  • Resilience: How will the Wikimedia Foundation weather continuous change by building a culture of research and innovation so that new approaches and platforms are being regularly evaluated and tested?

CITATIONS

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