Wikimedia and COVID-19: April overview

We’re in the middle of a difficult pandemic. No one knows what the future holds, but the Wikimedia movement is working hard to make sure that knowledge is free and updated. In the end of March, the physician and Wikimedian Netha Hussain wrote a post on this blog that got a lot of attention, on how Wikimedians are working on COVID-19. Here’s the follow-up.

(text in Swedish)

The Wikimedia movement has been responding to the COVID-19 crisis ever since the disease was detected in China. The English Wikipedia article on the disease outbreak was created as early as 5 January 2020, and has since undergone more than 19,000 revisions by over 2,500 editors. The page has attracted a staggering 33 million pageviews as of April 2020. With around 1,000 references, this article provides a comprehensive and updated overview of the coronavirus pandemic globally. The combined viewership of all English Wikipedia articles related to COVID-19 crossed 300 million by April 2020. 

As of April 2020, at least 14 language communities have created WikiProjects for working on articles related to COVID-19. Coordinated efforts like Wikiprojects help people interested in the topic to come together, share ideas and discuss about improving the quality of content of articles related to COVID-19. Wikimedians worked with the Public Health Agency of Sweden and released text, images and posters in 24 languages for use on Wikipedia and sister projects. A newly established project called SWASTHA (Sanskrit word for health) is working on correcting misinformation present in COVID-19 articles in Indian languages by working with experts in the area. WikiProject COVID-19 Graphics supports creation and translation of COVID-19 graphics for use on Wikipedia. 

This GIF about flattening the curve is used around 500 times on Wikimedia projects. 

Image courtesy: Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, CC-BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedians have been continuing their outreach and networking efforts via virtual meetings. Wikimedia Café now hosts virtual discussions about issues of broad interest to the Wikimedia movement. WikiWorkshop 2020, a conference of researchers working on Wikimedia was converted into a virtual gathering following the travel restrictions due to the pandemic. The virtual gathering brought together over 100 people interested in research and featured talks and posters focusing on research surrounding Wikimedia. Wikimedia volunteers and staff have been working on increasing access to education in the context that approximately 1.5 billion learners are impacted by the pandemic. Wikimedians have created a portal for education, where lesson plans and #EduWiki challenges are posted regularly. Many chapters have switched their annual general meetings to digital format, and the Swedish Chapter published all instruction materials openly for others to re-use.

Wikidata, a sister project of Wikipedia that contains structured data, also has started new initiatives to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wikidata has data and resources for researchers interested in studying the pandemic, including scholarly articles and epidemiological data. Spin-off projects were created for different countries, and the COVID-19 Task Force for India has epidemiological data sorted down to the district level. A campaign to add structured data to images related to COVID-19 has received good responses. The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that supports Wikimedia projects, is releasing massive amounts of data about the evolution of COVID-19 related articles. They have also opened a landing page showing data related to COVID-19.

Google draws content from Wikipedia to show updated statistics related to COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the 10 top viewed English Wikipedia articles for the month of April, four were related to COVID-19. Related articles that featured in the top 20 list were Spanish flu, Deaths in 2020 and Coronavirus, indicating that people are actively seeking information about the history and evolution of pandemics. Top 20 list on Swedish Wikipedia included the same articles, and also Anders Tegnell, the Swedish chief epidemiologist, digerdöden (“black death”), “Hongkonginfluensan” (Hong Kong flu) and the most visited article of the entire month, Adam Alsing, a famous radio and TV host who unfortunately died due to the disease. The total page views on all Wikimedia projects taken together has come upto 23 billion, after increasing by 10.5% last month. Many organizations, including Google have been relying on information from Wikimedia projects to share updated information about the pandemic on the internet. The viewership statistics and the reliance of top websites on Wikimedia’s COVID-19 content indicate that Wikimedia is a popular source of information related to COVID-19.

What the future holds, no one knows. But no matter what happens, the Wikimedia communities worldwide seem intent on making sure that knowledge is free, accessible and updated, also in this time of crisis. 

Dr. Netha Hussain
Physician and Wikimedian based in Gothenburg

Eric Luth
Project manager, Wikimedia Sverige

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