Internet use is growing rapidly around the world, especially through increased mobile penetration. In developing countries, mobile internet use is projected to grow from 28 percent in 2014 to 45 percent by 2020—a total of 2.25 billion potential new users for any internet platform. This is a huge opportunity for organizations working in media, technology, and education. It’s also an exciting indicator of social change potential, as broad access to information is vital to development. To serve the “next billion” internet users, organizations need empirically grounded strategies and products that are uniquely tailored to these new users and their contexts.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia, has a revolutionary mission: To share the sum of all knowledge with every single human being. It is thus eager to engage new users in emerging internet markets. Yet in many countries, Wikipedia awareness and use is relatively low compared to overall internet use. To better serve new audiences, Wikimedia began the New Readers project, which prioritized using design research to deeply understand how best to engage and grow potential readers in the Global South. Building on internal research conducted in Mexico and South Africa, Wikimedia engaged Reboot to collaboratively extend research in and identify opportunities for India and Nigeria. This work would not only help grow readership, but it would strengthen Wikipedia itself; engaging a wider diversity of users and editors into its movement could help address the movement’s self-identified challenges of systemic bias and cultural imbalance in its coverage.