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Why Global Contributions on Wikipedia Are So Unequal

A critical mass of editors could solve the problem.

A team of researchers is examining the factors that contribute to the uneven distribution of geographical information about different countries on Wikipedia.

Credit: bastique

A team of researchers from Oxford University is seeking to understand what factors contribute to the uneven distribution of geographical information about different countries available on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Their analysis of geotagged articles on the website found an abundance of geographical information about Western European countries, but a pronounced dearth of information about countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

They examined the differences between the countries in the two regions and found three major determining factors: Population size, the availability of broadband Internet, and the number of edits originating from those countries.

The first two components are fairly self-evident, as countries with fewer people and fewer people connected to the Internet will be home to fewer people able to write and edit articles about their country on Wikipedia.

The third factor, however, seems to be a two-sided cultural issue. On the one hand, it seems that the societies of these countries themselves are not as open to the open information-sharing ethos of Wikipedia, and even comparably wealthy and highly connected countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are woefully underrepresented. Another factor is the culture of Wikipedia itself, which research suggests is biased towards the editing of existing articles over the creation of new ones.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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