Volunteer contributions to Wikipedia increased during COVID-19 mobility restrictions


Wikipedia, the largest encyclopedia ever created, is a global initiative driven by volunteer contributions. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and mobility restrictions ensued across the globe, it was unclear whether contributions to Wikipedia would decrease in the face of the pandemic, or whether volunteers would withstand the added stress and increase their contributions to accommodate the growing readership uncovered in recent studies.

We analyze 223223 million edits contributed from 2018 to 2020 across twelve Wikipedia language editions and find that Wikipedia’s global volunteer community responded resiliently to the pandemic, substantially increasing both productivity and the number of newcomers who joined the community. For example, contributions to the English Wikipedia increased by over 20%20% compared to the expectation derived from pre-pandemic data.

Our work sheds light on the response of a global volunteer population to the COVID-19 crisis, providing valuable insights into the behavior of critical online communities under stress.

T. Ruprechter, M. H. Ribeiro, T. Santos, F. Lemmerich, M. Strohmaier, R. West, D. Helic, Volunteer contributions to Wikipedia increased during COVID-19 mobility restrictions, Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 21505