Offline/Target Market

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In order to determine the most effective distribution method to disseminate the highest impact product at mass scale, the specific target market must be identified. That is: which sub-segments of the population without or with limited access to Internet should the offline projects be designed to address? To begin with, the goals of the offline offerings should be stated:

  • Provide access to the information and knowledge by breaking down what is currently the absolute Internet barrier, increasing reach
  • Educate an unreached population about the powers of collaborative knowledge
  • Encourage people from all backgrounds to take ownership of their local language and knowledge and aid in the education of others, increasing participation

Executive Summary

Outside of mobile phones, the most scalable and efficient way of reaching those in the Global South without predictable access to Internet is likely through computer-based software distributed through the education channel. Not only is this a sizable portion of the market but is also most equipped to utilize and contribute to the mission of Wikimedia.

Size of market: While it varies by country, approximately 30% of the population in the developing world is primary or secondary school age. Currently, ~44% of students have access to computers, which equates to ~550M students and teachers who could stand to benefit from a computer-based offline product.

Ability to utilize: The population in schools is most likely to benefit from access to WM/WP for a variety of reasons:

  • Most literate: On average, populations 15-24 have literacy rates about 8ppt higher than the adults (25+) for the same country.
  • Most tech savvy: Educational experts agree that school is the primary location for learning technical skills. Moreover, children are more able to learn new technologies
  • Learning environment: Students will be able to see the direct benefits of leveraging the content on the WM projects for their classroom settings – whether a teacher utilizes resources during class time, or whether information is leveraged for a school project. This is in contrast to the population outside of the school environment, which may or may not see the benefit of the intellectual curiosity.

Potential to contribute: Though it is yet to be determined if the offline product will offer an avenue for offline editing, there is certainly potential for the educated populace to provide high value contributions if given the opportunity in the future. For example:

  • An increasing number of schools are going online. This increases the possibilities of offline edits being uploaded when connections occur.
  • Most able to contribute to projects in local languages (see literacy & technical points above)
  • Education is directly related to income, which is also related to technology ownership/utilization. That is, the students today are most likely to be the computer owners tomorrow, and if they are exposed to and familiar with content and layout of Wikipedia, they may be able to add valuable contributions in the future

Reachable at a scalable level: Of all the potential customers in the offline world, the education sub-segment is the one that is not only the most likely to benefit from an offline Wikimedia, but also the most direct to reach.

  • Few key providers: In developing countries, there are a few key providers of low-cost, educational computers. In the Global South, Intel Classmate, Ncomputing, and OLPC have the largest markets
  • Governments are purchasers: Unlike retail, the purchasing base is somewhat consolidated and purchasing for the entire country tends to be run through either state or national governments

The following information outlines the research, background, and methodology for arriving to this conclusion. Note: This summary is primarily focusing on areas outside of mobile. For more information on the mobile opportunity, refer to the mobile strategy page.

Whom to Target

For the purposes of this approach to the offline market, the world population can be broken down into three primary groups based on their online access:

  1. High quality, consistent Internet access
  2. Sporadic, inconsistent access to the Internet
  3. No ability to access the Internet

The majority of Wikimedians fall into the first category for obvious reasons: the Wikimedia product as it stands today is almost completely online based, and the collaborative editing process currently requires a reliable Internet connection. The offline Wikimedia offerings, then, are geared to the later two groups. As access to ICT continues to expand throughout the world, as has been the historical trend,[1] the market necessitating purely offline access will diminish as society migrates up the “connectivity ladder” (as defined above). Moreover, as individuals move up in connectivity status, they will theoretically have increased opportunities to contribute to Wikimedia projects and, assuming the use of offline products, would have the familiarity and interest to do so.

General market categories

Offline market 1.jpg

Note: These numbers are representative of the developing world only,[2] where 21% of the population uses the Internet and 4.4% have access to broadband.[3] Eliminating those with broadband (~249M people the following groups exist:

Internet: limited/inconsistent

Defined as not having broadband but access to Internet

  • Size: 939M
  • Mediums of reach: Mobile, computer software, other (lower priority)
  • Attractiveness of group: Very high. This group represents those that are most likely to benefit from the Wikimedia movement as they have the opportunities to experience at least some of the benefit of the collaborative nature of Wikimedia in that (a) content could be periodically updates (and therefore improved/enhanced) and (b) there is the potential to upload offline edits.
  • Who this likely is: Primary and secondary school students; university/college students; more urban populations
  • How to reach: Schools; universities; shared computer centers (e.g., libraries, internet cafes); USB downloads

No internet: with computer access

  • Size: 379M
  • Mediums of reach: Mobile, computer software, other offline materials
  • Attractiveness of group: Medium-high. Though this is a fairly small group, this is the sub-section of the population most likely to have Internet access in the nearer future.
  • Who this likely is: Students
  • How to reach: Schools; universities; shared computer centers (e.g., libraries, internet cafes); USB download

No internet: no computer access

  • Size: 4,089M total; 2,229M "relevant" (see "Reasons for not being online" below)
  • Mediums of reach: Mobile, other offline materials
  • Attractiveness of group: Medium. While this is likely the highest need and by far the largest group, it is also the population that will be most difficult to physically reach at a mass level.[4]
  • Who this likely is: Students; families
  • How to reach: Mobile shops; schools; universities; libraries; some shared computer centers

Reasons for not being online

Estimated offline market

The approximately four billion people without access to the Internet in the developing world are spread around the Global South with a mirage of backgrounds, opportunities, and resources. There are various reasons people are not online, some of which are accounted for below:


Though the cut-off varies, it is generally agreed that some minimum age exists to use the Internet in general, including the Wikimedia projects.[5] Moreover, given the higher birth rates in developing countries, measuring Wikipedia access by inhabitants systematically understates Wikimedia access amongst adults in high birth rate countries

  • Details: For the purposes of this sizing, we exclude the populace ages 0-4 in developing countries
  • Estimated size: 571M


Given that the Wiki content is primarily textual, a targeted audience must be able to read in order to benefit from its resources. In developing countries, the levels of literacy are significantly lower than in the developed world (99% verses average 53% in the least developed countries[6]).

  • Details: The latest literacy rate assessments report the average literacy rate in developing countries for ages 15+ is 77.2%[7]
  • Estimated size: 1,290M
  • Implications: Given a quarter of the offline-only market is unable to read, Wikimedia ought to carefully consider its placement in developing areas in order to have a concentrated effect on those who are most likely to benefit from the resources of Wikimdia projects. For example:
    • Youth, ages 15-24, consistently have higher levels of literacy than their adult counterparts and should perhaps be targeted. In developing countries, youth literacy is ~8 percentage points higher for youth than for the adults in the same country.[8]
    • Certain distributors of ICT products may also concentrate on education and teaching to read. Such distributors may be good partners for the Wikimedia movement.
    • Certain recipients of ICT products, similarly, may have a strong education component (e.g., a school computer lab).

Other (lack of education; indifference)

A portion of the offline market simply does not want to use the Internet, regardless of the ability to access it. This could be due to lack of knowledge regarding the technologies or simply other personal preferences (e.g., print versus digital).

  • Details: While the proportion of the population who will never be interested in being online is unknown, for the purposes of the offline sizing we can exclude those people without Internet in developed countries. This can be rationalized in part by assuming that in the developed countries, at least some opportunity exists to be connected if so desired (e.g., while ~77% of people in the US are Internet users,[9] access to Internet is available through 100% of all public schools[10] and 99% of all public libraries (which serve more than 97% of Americans))[11]. Currently, an estimated 71% of the population in developed countries use the Internet.
  • Estimated size: 358M (offline population in developed countries)
  • Implications: As there will likely always be a subset of the population which is not interested in online technologies, this indicates having a variety of mediums through which to access information is important.


The subset of potential readers who are currently offline in developing countries are also the most likely to not speak the pan-regional languages which currently dominate the Wikipedia space. While there are rich languages offerings throughout the Wikimedia movement, there are still many gaps in developing languages (See strategy pages regarding reach). If good and useful content does not exist in a language that a person can understand, no offline offerings will be utilized.

  • Details: focusing on English[12], the approximate prevalence of speakers across the world is estimated between 20-33%, and in developing countries this is likely on average closer to 10-15%.[13] That said, a significant portion of the developing countries have Spanish or Portuguese as primary languages, and significant content exists in these languages as well. However, even Chinese-with an estimated 910M offline citizens-is not currently at a mature, developed state.
  • Estimated size: Unknown
  • Implications:
    • Depending on geographic areas most appealing to approach in the offline work, content in local languages ought to be developed / jump-started. This could be a combined effort with the establishment of local teams in key geographic areas.
    • Different online projects may be required to develop to incorporate a variety of language offerings


At times, there have been portions of Wikipedia blocked by governments. In such cases, the penetration in these countries is not an online / offline issue but rather a state censorship issue that is broader than the scope of this initiative. That said, no countries currently have Wikipedia on constant block, so these totals will be included in the overall unless something changes.

Remaining market

Thus, 3.5B individuals fall within the broadest subcategory of those who could potentially benefit from some variety of offline access to Wikimedia in the developing world. The next step, then, is to winnow the 3.5B down to the market that will have the highest potential to benefit the most from the Wikimedia projects. The following criteria will help gauge this:

  • Total size of sub-segment:
    Estimated age segmentation of Offline market
    The overall demographics in developing countries tend to skew younger, with approximately 40% of the population being school age.[14] That said, developing countries tend to have a lower percentage of the school age population actually enrolled in schools; in 2005, enrollment in primary & secondary public schools combined equated ~72% of the school age populations.[15]
  • Education-level: Though it depends on what medium the offline project will take, in general, it is most helpful for the offline user to be more tech-savvy than not. This will enable the user to get the most out of the experience, as well as leave open the most room for editing potential in the future - a critical component to the life-cycle of Wikimedia.
  • Most likely to speak a major language: As discussed above, any offline project created will leverage content from the richness of the already existing Wikimedia projects, which unfortunately are currently under-represented in many local languages. For this reason, offline projects created will likely require literacy in languages with a developed Wikipedia presence.
  • Most able to communicate in writing in their native language: While there are opportunities for audio recognition in the offline market, the ultimate development of content in native languages is most likely to most often occur in the written form. For this reason, it could greatly empower the movement to focus on introducing Wikipedia to individuals who could be potential contributors.

How to Distribute

The strategy for distribution relies on which offline medium will most effectively reach the intended audience. Various options exist:

Offline diagram.png

The next steps in choosing the best deployment are:

  1. Assess attractiveness of the medium options to reach target market
  2. Determine best partnerships and distribution options

Attractiveness of offline options

The attractiveness of the varying mediums is assessed across a combination of criteria revolving around:

' Mobile Books (Print) DVD Device Computer
Size of market 68%; 2.4B[17] 100%; 3.5B[18] 50%; 1.8B[19] Unclear 37%; 1.3B[20]
Fixed Cost $5+[21] None ~$200 (TV with DVD player)[22] $0-$200[23] $200-$400[24]
Unit Cost TBD $0.50 per book[25] $0.25 per DVD[26] $20-$90[27] TBD
Ability to use without external instruction Medium High Medium Unclear Medium
Ability to spread/be extended Medium-High Medium (can pass along) High (can share and/or burn) Low High (software itself)
Potential to upgrade/update High Low Low Medium-high High
Potential to teach/incorporate editing High Low Low Medium High

Distribution options by product

Based on the scale above, the focus should be on the following two mechanisms: mobile and computers. Focusing first on the higher potential methods:


See the Mobile Strategy page for more detailed information.


While home and/or work are the preferred access points for most developed countries (with 65.6% of households having an Internet connection), in developing economies the use of shared Internet facilities is more prominent given the low level of home Internet penetration (15.8%).[28][29] Primary access points can then be rated in the following way:

Note: the following data varies significantly between urban and rural demographics in the developing countries, as well as by regions. Though general trends and averages/medians are summarized below, the actual distribution by and throughout each region/country varies drastically. The generalizations, then, are useful for guiding a high level strategy, though the specifics of any given country should be taken into consideration by the relevant communities.

  • Primary & Secondary Schools:
    • Data: ~44% of primary students in the WEI study on eleven sample developing economies have access to computers, though only 23% of them had access to the Internet in 2008.[30] Assuming similar penetration across secondary schools, this indicates that approximately 251M students now have access to a computer without Internet and could benefit from the deployment of an offline Wikipedia. Moreover, an additional ~275M students who have Internet access may also have need for the offline Wikipedia given the potential Internet access limitations.
In addition to students, studies in eleven developing countries found that the use of computers in schools also aided in the improvement of teacher learning. This increases the realm of impact of computers in school systems to incorporate teachers, administrators, and librarians who are also involved in the school system. Data reported by over 90 developing countries in 2005 indicate an average student to teacher ratio for primary and secondary schools is 20:1.[31] This implies an additional 26M persons potentially being touches by offline Wikipedia.
Moreover, in terms of policy, the Information for Development Program has found that “interest in and use of ICTs in education appear to be growing, even in the most challenging environments in developing countries.”[32] This implies that these numbers will continue to grow into the future, as an increasing numbers of schools incorporate ICT into their infrastructure.
    • Primary providers of infrastructure:
      • Government: Several developing countries (e.g., Belarus, Chile, Uruguay) have made significant progress in bringing ICTs to schools through clear setting of targets and policies on behalf of the government. According to the ITU, “this highlights the importance of strong government policies and clear commitments and targets in the area of ICTs in education.”[33]
      • NGOs: typically smaller scale distributions (i.e., not on the national level)
  • Colleges/Universities (higher-education):
    • Data: It is generally assumed and expected that all higher-education institutions have basic access to ICT infrastructure (computer and Internet), though broadband is not always accessible.[34]. Using information last available in 2006 from over 70 developing countries, ~2% of the population in developing countries is in tertiary schools and student:teacher ratio is about 17:1. Applying these ratios to 2010 population numbers implies a potential higher education market of ~113M students and teachers. These enrollment numbers have been increasing over the past years as well.[35]
Moreover, higher education in developing countries has recently become a stronger focus for the United Nations in developing countries, and they are hoping to increase access and enrollment. Such focus will likely make the size of this market increase over time.[36]
    • Primary providers of infrastructure:
      • Academic institutions themselves
      • Private donors
  • Commercial/Public Facilities:
    • Data: Data for this is not collected in all countries in the same manner, some areas in the Global South report:
      • Americas: over 40% of Internet users access the Internet via public or commercial Internet access facilities.[37]
      • Africa: Over 85% of Internet users in Africa access via cybercafes or Internet cafes.
    • Primary providers of infrastructure:
      • Universal access contributions
      • License conditions
      • e-Government initiatives (typically supported by non-government organizations and the academic sector)
  • Home/Work:
    • Data: As mentioned above, this is the preferred place of access where accessible - the issue, of course, is that only ~16% of homes have an Internet connection of any sort. In terms of work, a sample of respondent developing countries (n=18), about a third of Internet users access via their work place.[38] Approximately 894M households have some sort of home Internet in the Global South.
    • Primary providers of infrastructure:
      • Retail: Private (individual) purchase
      • Corporate: Work purchase

Distribution avenues

Low-cost computing

Low-cost computers are becoming increasingly available and affordable, and developing countries governments are becomingly increasingly active in addressing the need for ICT in education. Each country obviously has a different government structure and leadership regarding ICT for education; moreover, each of these ministries tends to partner with their own network of organizations to actually deploy new ICT infrastructure and provide training.[39] That said, it is likely inefficient and un-scalable (and out of Wikimedia's core-competencies) for WM to attempt to individually create relationships with the governments.

That said, a relatively few number of low-cost computer creators exist which have already created partnerships with various governments and have the majority of market share within the countries. The following table provides a brief overview of the prominent providers of low-cost ICT devices for educational systems in the developing world.[40] While some of the systems are concentrated in education, all of them have been deployed for usage in other avenues, e.g., libraries, community centers, homes, and businesses.

Name Global presence Reach Cost Distribution OS Description Notes Source/URL Image
Intel Classmate (2 versions) 60 Countries +1M students Collaborates with local hardware, software, and peripherals vendors; more than 300 vendors develop applications Linux or Microsoft Laptop designs for the end market Takes partners [15]
NComputing 140 Countries 2.5M virtual desktops; ~20M users per day. 25K schools, 12M students, faculty, librarians, and admin Linux or Microsoft Low-cost thin client solution Takes partners [16]
OLPC XO-1 & XO-1.5 ~40 Countries ~1.5M models ~$200 Governments; NGOs; software open-sourced Sugar, Linux or Microsoft Low power laptop meant to connect wirelessly to broadband using mesh networks and featuring an innovative display mechanism WP already available [17]
Inveneo Computing Station 23 Countries (mainly Africa) 1M people NGOs, local governments, private entities, communities Open-source For places with little or no access to electricity or affordable communications; solar power; desktop Takes partners [18]
Ink Media iLex/Olea International <$300 Open-source Laptop with no moving parts Does not seem to have wide deployment [19]
Positivo Informática Latin America (mainly Brazil) ~6400 public schools & 2500 private schools in Brazil using Positivo technologies Microsoft the IT arm of Grupo Positivo, which works extensively in education in Brazil Positivo Informática; Grupo Positivo
Sakshat India Goal to connect 25,000 colleges and 400 universities (estimated 1M tablets in 2011) $35 Government and institutions Android 7-9 inch tablet supporting video, Web conferencing, etc., Wi-Fi, USB port, and 2GB RAM Anticipated on coming out in 2011 [20]


As mentioned above, governments are key providers and champions of ICT throughout the Global South (and, in fact, it seems those countries lacking strong government involvement are those also struggling in the deployment of technologies). Creating and maintaining, though, government relationships throughout the world is most likely an impractical option for Wikimedia. The most leveraged use of time on a mass level, then, is focusing on partnerships with the creators of the low-cost computing systems that typically sell to governments, which are, in fact, the primary buyers of ICT.[41] Some higher priority and larger governments such as India or Brazil may in fact be beneficial to be in communications with at the Foundation level.

Retail outlets

Outside of working with the primary low-cost computer provides, outside options exist that will focus around those who personally own a computer (~xM in the Global South).

A potential avenue to reaching this market would be via USB sticks. A navigable version of Wikipedia could be preloaded onto a new USB stick that is available for purchase in the Global South.[42]

A second retail option would be to bundle the offline materials with commonly purchased items, such as CD connected to a box of Coca-Cola or a gift in General Mills cereal box. This would allow mass dissemination at a relatively low cost. However, hit rates (defined as percentage of recipients who actually download and use the content on the product) would likely be very low due to:

  1. Low personal computer penetration (<23% on average)
  2. Time and effort required to download, install, and index the offline content
  3. Lack of interest and/or unfamiliarity with Wikipedia project

How to Publicize

Next Page: Offline Product

See also: Offline/Target Market/India


  1. United Nation Publications, "The Global Information Society: A Statistical View," April 2008.
  2. For rationale in excluding developed population, see "[Other (Lack of education; indifference)]"
  3. International Telecommunications Union, "The World in 2010: ICT facts & Figures," October 2010 [].
  4. Note: this group is perhaps reachable at a mass level via mobile phones. See Mobile for more information.
  5. See the Internet World Stats for various cut-off ages by organization
  6. “Least Developed Countries” (LDCs) are countries designated by the United Nations (UN) as meeting pre-designated thresholds regarding income (GDP per capita), human assess (measured by a a composite index including literacy, health, nutrition), and economic vulnerability (measured by an index based on stability of agriculture production, exports of goods and services, etc.). United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), "The Least Developed Countries Report," 2002.
  7. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, "International Literacy Statistics: A Review of Concepts, Methodology and Current Data," 2008.
  8. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, "International Literacy Statistics: A Review of Concepts, Methodology and Current Data," 2008.
  9. [1] Internet World Stats, 2010
  10. [2], US Institute of Educational Sciences, 2005
  11. [] ALA Office for Research & Statistics, June 2010.
  12. Rationale: 1) biggest language presence currently on Wikipedia [3]; 2) Most commonly spoken language and the official language of the UN and the IOC [4]
  13. Wikipedia:List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population#cite_note-2
  14. Assumes ages 5-19 are primary and secondary age groups. Assumed general age proportions same in this revised subset.
  15. UNESCO Education Stats. [5]
  16. This is approximated by assessing the product's potential to (1) reflect the most current educational content and (2) become a direct outlet to the user to develop and disseminate knowledge in the public domain.
  17. Assumes same mobile penetration rates in offline market as in total population; ICT, "The World in 2010," 2010
  18. Assumes all illiterate persons have been eliminated from the offline market
  19. TV home penetration rates are 72.4%, and home computer rates are 22.4%. Assuming an approximate mid-point between these two, as DVD players are currently not as difficult to acquire as computers, but more difficult than DVD players.
  20. Includes those with limited access to Internet along with solely a computer
  21. Cellphones are largely available on the second-hand market and therefore readily available inexpensively Depending on the nature of the Wikipedia-mobile, some restrictions to which phones can access the information may apply (TBD).
  22. Microsoft Research, Interactive DVDs as a Platform for Education, April 2010.[6]
  23. Low end assumes, since the goal is to provide an offline product, the reader itself is the unit cost. Some readers, though, such as the Humane Reader require a TV and a keyboard for full utilization.
  24. Low-end computers (e.g., OLPC XO, Intel Classmate PC) make up the lower band. Higher-band is a more average computer according to: Microsoft Research, Interactive DVDs as a Platform for Education, April 2010.[7]
  25. Microsoft Research, Interactive DVDs as a Platform for Education, April 2010.[8]
  26. Microsoft Research, Interactive DVDs as a Platform for Education, April 2010.[9]
  27. Low-cost benchmarked through Humane Reader, estimated at $20 at scale. High-end cost benchmarked through the currently marketed WikiReader. The bi-annual update cost was ignored since this is offline is assumed.
  28. Preferred points of access: Roberts, Sheridan: “The Global Information Society: a Statistical View,” 2008.[]
  29. Home penetration rates: International Telecommunications Union, "The World in 2010: ICT facts & Figures," October 2010 [].
  30. UNESCO, “A View Inside Primary Schools,” 2008.
  31. UNESCO Education Stats. [10]
  32. Trucano, Michael. 2005. Knowledge Maps: ICT in Education. Washington, DC: infoDev / World Bank. [11]
  33. World Telecommunications/ITU, “Monitoring the WSIS Targets: A Mid-term Review,” 2010.
  34. World Telecommunications/ITU, “Monitoring the WSIS Targets: A Mid-term Review,” 2010.
  35. Mohamedbhai, Goolam, "Globalization and its Implications on Universities in Developing Countries," One World Week - Forum on Global Universities, 27 Jan. 2008.[]
  36. Sharma, Yojana, "UNESCO: UN to increase its focus on higher education," University World News, 19 September 2010.[12]
  37. World Telecommunications/ITU, “Monitoring the WSIS Targets: A Mid-term Review,” 2010.
  38. "Global Information Society: A Statistical View," 2008
  39. See series of reports from infoDev, "Educating the Educators: Capacity-Building Essential for Successful ICT4E," World Bank, 2010.
  40. Table is augmented from infoDev at the World Bank. Vota, Wayan, "Updated Quick Guide to Low-Cost ICT Devices for Educational Systems in the Developing World," World Bank, July 2010.[13]
  41. "Is ICT Investment in Schools Wasted?" Educational Technology Debate, 2010. [14]
  42. This would be similar to the Encyclopedia Britannica preloaded onto some Duracell 2GB USB drives. This attempt, however, is currently only available in North & Latin Americas.