| April 5, 2018

A “Big Data” Collaboration Promises to Uncover Mobile Online Reading Trends


Worldreader mobile app

The Big Potential with Big Data

Development practitioners and funders are increasingly interested in deriving insights from large data-sets (commonly termed “Big Data”). Every day, people around the globe who access Worldreader on their phones generate 1M rows of data. These data can help Worldreader improve our collections and create a better experience for our readers. Perhaps more importantly, these data also have the potential to showcase mobile reading trends around the world.

A Partnership to Distill Big Data into Information that’s Usable and Actionable

As our friends at ICTworks laid out in a recent blog post, while data is plentiful, it can be quite expensive to distill that data into information that’s usable and actionable. To this end, Worldreader has partnered with the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) and the DataLab at the University of Washington’s Information School to build the Mobile Reading Data Exchange. Thanks to the support of the Tableau Foundation, TASCHA, and the DataLab have been supporting Worldreader with data analysis, and expect to soon release visualizations that describe mobile reading patterns across the globe.

How Worldreader and the Broader Community can Apply these Insights

By providing TASCHA and the DataLab access to our data, Worldreader has opened the door to better insights and a global exchange of data that can inform our publishing and programmatic partners and spark a conversation about responsible uses of big data across a variety of developmental contexts. Through the Mobile Reading Data Exchange TASCHA will be sharing findings, visualizations, and posts documenting the analysis process and approach.


tascha and worldreader big data

What We’ve Learned So Far and What’s to Come

Recent posts discuss open data and research ethics, challenges on working with big data, and the exploratory data analysis of the dataset. Results of the project will both provide insight for Worldreader about its users and product, and additionally, help TASCHA understand digital reading patterns in the Global South more broadly.

Future posts from TASCHA and Worldreader will answer questions such as:

  1. What are the behaviors and needs of ‘top’ users and how can Worldreader serve them better?
  2. What patterns can be observed in the following areas: reading, book categories, time reading, time as registered users, and geography?
  3. What behavior predicts long or short-term engagement? What behavior predicts that a user will stop reading?
  4. How can data be used to inform investment in book collections?

Stay tuned for more insights from the Mobile Reading Data Exchange as the project progresses.

About our Partners

The Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School explores the design, use, and effects of information and communication technologies in communities facing social and economic challenges. With experience in over 50 countries, TASCHA brings together a multidisciplinary network of researchers, practitioners, and policy experts to advance knowledge, create public resources, and improve policy and program design.

The DataLab is the nexus for research on Data Science and Analytics at the University of Washington iSchool. They study large-scale, heterogeneous human data in an effort to understand why individuals, consumers, and societies behave the way they do. Their goal is to use data for the social good, in an ethical manner that can inform policy and impact lives for the better. As the focal point for industry partnerships related to “big data” and business analytics, the DataLab also provides infrastructure and support for student training and engagement in projects that involve the analysis of large datasets.

The Tableau Foundation is an initiative led by the employees of Tableau Software that encourages the use of facts and analytical reasoning to solve the world’s problems. Tableau Foundation grants combine Tableau’s two most valuable resources – its people and its products – with financial support to nonprofits that are using data to reshape communities around the globe. To learn more, please visit www.tableaufoundation.org.