Is the reluctance to pay editors a barrier to equitable participation on Wikipedia? Not exactly. Global economic inequalities mean that an encyclopedia built on paid edits would also reflect those inequalities. We’d probably have an encyclopedia with even more content about rich countries and wealthy corporations than we already do. What we instead need are models that both address the fact that different parts of the world have different capacities to volunteer, and at the same time remove some of the short-term problematic incentives that paid editing would bring about.
Its reliance on self-motivated volunteers works exceedingly well in certain parts of the world; but, in other regions, this model has become an economic barrier to entry. Maybe as a consequence, Wikipedia is surprisingly imbalanced in its coverage of global knowledge.
Almost a decade ago, we began mapping all of the content on Wikipedia and found that the site was a highly unequal representation of the world. There were many more articles about Europe and North America than there were about poorer parts of the world. One of our more recent mappings showed more articles written about Western Europe than all of the rest of the world put together. For every article about Africa, there were twenty about Europe. That was despite the fact that Africa is three times larger than Europe, it has over twice the population, and has roughly the same number of internet users.
Since then, much effort has been spent on identifying the underlying causes. Our own research found that the availability of broadband is a clear factor in the likelihood of people around the world participating in Wikipedia. Another study showed the importance of the availability of sources in local languages, to be used for citations, including local media sources.