Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Outreach

Free Knowledge Should Be for Everyone: Sign Your Name for Free Access to Wikipedia on Mobile Phones

Today we are pleased to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation is launching a petition for free access to Wikipedia on mobile phones, accompanied by the short documentary film, Knowledge for Everyone.

In November 2012, a group of high schoolers from Joe Slovo Park township in South Africa wrote and posted an open letter on Facebook, requesting that mobile carriers in South Africa grant free access to Wikipedia on mobile phones so that they could use Wikipedia’s articles to support their schoolwork and contribute to their education. The class had read about Wikipedia Zero; a Wikimedia Foundation program that works with mobile carriers to waive data charges that normally come with accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. We first heard about the efforts of the class in February of 2013; soon after, I went with filmmaker Charlene Music to Cape Town, to hear the students’ story in person, and capture their request on camera.

In October 2013, we published a video of the students reading the open letter that they had written. On February 14, 2014, one of the mobile carriers mentioned in the letter, MTN South Africa, responded with their own video announcing that they would grant free access to Wikipedia in South Africa to MTN users via the Opera Mini browser. What a Valentine’s day present! Everyone was excited by MTN South Africa’s decision.

Many people talk about the consequences of the global digital divide, or the gap between the quality and availability of digital access in the global north versus the global south. (Vint Cerf recently addressed the issue on The Colbert Report.) However, there are few examples of stories that humanize this gap. It’s often hard to show the direct impact of knowledge on an individual or a community, and big numbers and statistics lose the personal truth of the story. Knowledge for Everyone is a chance for the world to see what free access to Wikipedia can mean, through the experience of the students of Sinenjongo High School.

The petition that we’re publishing along with the documentary is a way for you to do something about helping make the world’s free knowledge available for everyone. When you sign this petition, you can tell us what free access to Wikipedia could mean to you or your community. This way, when the Wikimedia Foundation talks with mobile carriers all around the world, we can share your message. They’ll be able to hear, in your words, why access to free knowledge is a powerful tool.

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Wikimedians in Residence: a journey of discovery

GLAM-WIKI 2013 attendees

A bit of background

In April of 2014 I found myself digging deep into analytics in search of possible improvements and insight into what we do as a chapter. What brought me there? One of our most renowned programs, Wikimedians in Residence. A Wikimedian in Residence (WIR) is a person who, as a Wikimedia contributor, accepts a placement within an institution to facilitate open knowledge in a close working relationship between the Wikimedia movement and the institution. They work to facilitate content improvements on Wikimedia projects, but more importantly serve as ambassadors for open knowledge within the host organization.

Wikimedia UK has been involved with WiR in the UK with varying degrees of support and supervision. Since the creation of the chapter, we always felt that the program was worth running, seeing it as one of the key ways we can engage with external organizations. However, I never knew for sure, if that was just a feeling. Toward the end of 2013 we decided to explore these notions.

Why and how to evaluate

As I focused on my questions about program impact, I embarked on a review process of the program, which eventually included: a questionnaire for all the key parties, online surveys, meetings, group discussions, the analysis of existing materials (e.g. residents’ reports) and creation of a review document.

In January of this year I planned to survey the Residents and host institutions about their views on the program. Since I wasn’t sure what to ask, I reached out to the Program Evaluation and Design team for help.

Their stringent approach was worth it. We boiled down the issues around what I actually wanted to find out from the survey. Doing that before creating the questions was a revelation to me. The questionnaire went much deeper than I had originally anticipated. This meant that when we worked on creating the survey questions, every point was there for a specific reason and in a sensible order. With their help, I developed three surveys: for residents, residency hosts  and another for community member input.

I was impressed with the amount of feedback that was shared. The Residents were clearly committed to the project and keen on telling me what could make the program more successful. At the same time I ran interviews with the host institutions. By that stage I was deeply entrenched in the review process. Discovering more about the program increased my appetite for a deeper analysis. This culminated in an April brainstorming meeting aimed at completing an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) of our Wikipedian in Residence program.

With the data collection completed, I then examined all the reports and case studies produced by the residents and summarized them in terms of the impact made to Wikimedia projects. (Click here to read Overview of the residencies.)
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Creating Safe Spaces

This morning I read an article entitled Ride like a girl. In it, the author describes how being a cyclist in a city is like being a woman: Welcome to being vulnerable to the people around you. Welcome to being the exception, not the rule. Welcome to not being in charge. The analogy may not be a perfect fit, but reading these words made me think of a tweet I favorited several weeks ago when #YesAllWomen was trending. A user who goes by the handle @Saradujour wrote: “If you don’t understand why safe spaces are important, the world is probably one big safe space to you.” As I continue interviewing women who edit Wikipedia and as I read through the latest threads on the Gendergap mailing list, I keep asking myself, “How can a community that values transparency create safe spaces? How can we talk about Wikipedia’s gender gap without alienating dissenting voices and potential allies?”

Ride like a girl?

Wikipedia’s gender gap has been widely publicized and documented both on and off Wiki (and on this blog since 1 February 2011). One of the reasons I was drawn to working on the gender gap as a research project was that, despite the generation of a great deal of conversation, there seem to be very few solutions. It is, what Rittel and Webber would call, a “wicked problem.” Even in the midst of the ongoing work of volunteers who spearhead and contribute to endeavors like WikiProject Women scientists, WikiWomen’s History Month, WikiProject Women’s sport and Meetup/ArtandFeminism (to name only a few), the gender gap is a wicked problem a lot of community members–even those dedicated to the topic–seem tired of discussing.

The Women and Wikipedia IEG project is designed to collect and then provide the Wikimedia community with aggregate qualitative and quantitative data that can be used to assess existing efforts to address the gender gap. This data may also be used to guide the design of future interventions or technology enhancements that seek to address the gap. The data may include but not be limited to:

Wikipedia for Schools Project

Teachers and students in Nyeri, Kenya listening to a tutorial under the Wikipedia for Schools Project.

In 2005, SOS Children, the world’s largest charity for orphan and abandoned children[1] [2] launched the “A World of Learning” project, which handpicks Wikipedia articles and categorizes them by subject for schoolchildren around the world to use. The project focuses on content that is suitable for students between the ages of 8-17 based on the UK education curriculum. In November 2006, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) endorsed the project, which resulted in its relaunch as “Wikipedia for Schools” and its new web address (http://www.schools-wikipedia.org). Ever since then, the project continues to enjoy the support of The Wikimedia Foundation. The website went through subsequent revisions in 2008-09 as well as in 2013. The 2013 edition has 6,000 articles, 26 million words and 50,000 images – making it a fairly large project that caters to the needs of school children across the globe. The online Website also contains “download the website” link which enables users to download the material for use without internet connection. [1]

Hole in the Wall Education Ltd (HiWEL) supported the Wikipedia for Schools project in an effort to expand its reach in Learning Stations in India and African countries.[2] The program has received recognition from around the world for its far reaching impact. According to Subir from Nepal’s online learning project E-Pustakalaya, “Wikipedia for Schools has been really useful in public schools in Nepal. The students of remote corners of Nepal, where there is no internet access, now know about the diverse culture, religion, art, science and lifestyles of the countries around the world. All credit goes to the team that built this wonderful repository of information for schools.” [1] Similarly, Patrick of Treverton Schools, South Africa, welcomed the effort as “fantastic resource for schools with little or no bandwidth, of which there are many here in South Africa.”

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Luganda Wikipedia project

A logo for Wikipedia in the Ganda language.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to write articles in one of Wikipedia’s least represented languages? Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to combine sustainable development, village and school development and mobile learning with Wikipedia in a developing country? Well, here’s my experience doing just that!

Caroline Gunnarsson & Paulina Backstrom, two Wikipedia ambassadors who taught Wikipedia in English and Luganda in Uganda through a project directed by Wikimedia Sweden & WWF.

Our names are Paulina Bäckström and Caroline Gunnarsson. We are two 20-year-olds from Sweden. Our journey began in 2012, after our first trip to Uganda during high school. As part of an exam we were asked to write Wikipedia articles based on our experiences from the trip. Wikipedia’s unique value as a source of knowledge and educational tool inspired us to embark on a project. To read more about the background of our project, please go to our page at Uganda pilot.

Our project is called “Luganda Wikipedia.” We all know what Wikipedia is, but what’s Luganda? Luganda is Uganda’s second largest language, with about seven million native speakers and ten million second-language speakers. Around 16 million Ganda (people living in the Buganda region), speak Luganda.

However, Luganda is often considered a neglected language. Why? I do not have an answer for that. But when you talk about Luganda being neglected on Wikipedia, I have a bit more insight. In January, the Luganda Wikipedia page contained only 166 articles (!). A deserted Wikipedia indeed. It was disheartening to see so many speakers and readers of the language but so few articles, we wanted to make a change. Wikipedia must be one of the best ways to share knowledge in the modern world. Imagine how much knowledge people in Buganda (and other parts of Uganda) can share with each other, with only access to a computer and internet. The mission for the two of us, was to teach Ugandans how to write in Wikipedia, start a local Wikipedia community and plant a seed for the future of  Wikipedia in Uganda. You can summarize the project like this, as noted on our pilot page: “The purpose is to expand Luganda Wikipedia with articles on sustainable development and open up a world where knowledge is freely accessible to everybody in Uganda.” Beautiful words in theory, but did it work in practice? Let me just say that the number of articles in Luganda have risen from 166 to 198. We have inaugurated Uganda’s first (and perhaps Africa’s first) Wikipedia center (computer center) in a small village called Mbazzi, where villagers, who are almost all farmers, are contributing their knowledge. We have also started “Wiki clubs” at different schools.
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Wikipedia Zero will accelerate Wikipedia in Nepal

This post is available in 2 languages:
English  • Nepali

Screenshot of Nepali Wikipedia.

This is a guest post from Nepali Wikipedian Ganesh Paudel and does not necessarily express the views of the Wikimedia Foundation. 

On May 6th mobile operator NCELL announced the launch of Wikipedia Zero in Nepal. Wikipedia Zero is expected to be a very useful service in Nepal, where over 90% of internet users access the internet using their mobile phones. The service will provide Nepalese users in very remote areas access to Wikipedia – free of cost. The local Wikipedia community, Wikipedia Education Program leaders, Wiki Poject Med and all volunteer contributors are excited by the news.

The Wikipedia Zero team and local Wikimedians are communicating with Nepal Telecom, the government owned mobile operator company, to encourage them to start this service as well. Throughout the years, Wikipedia has been established as an increasingly effective educational tool. There will surely be an acceleration in use and expansion of Wikipedia after launching Wikipedia Zero in Nepal. Currently, five languages have pages that serve the Nepal Wikipedia community – Nepali, Newari, Bhojpuri, Pali and Sanskrit. Ten other language Wikipedia pages are in test phases. This service will broaden the path to develop local content in all 123 languages spoken in Nepal.

So what exactly is Wikipedia Zero? Wikipedia Zero is a free browsing service that allows users to surf Wikipedia pages without incurring data charges. The name refers to the zero cost of using the service. The Wikimedia Foundation provides this service in collaboration with mobile operators. If the user clicks on an external link, a message will warn them that ‘this service is chargeable’ to ensure that accidental data charges are not acquired.

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Are you the next Wikipedia Visiting Scholar?

Wikipedia Visiting Scholars gain full university library access.

Many Wikipedia editors are limited by the sources they have access to. The Wikipedia Visiting Scholars (WVS) program is a novel approach that aims to connect Wikipedia editors with reference resources at top research universities. The WVS program adapts an existing model at academic institutions, that of the “visiting scholar” or “affiliate researcher,” to offer an individual full university staff credentials so they can extend the reach of their research.

The WVS program is coordinated through the Wikimedia Foundation’s Individual Engagement Grant-funded project The Wikipedia Library, and offers university staff status to an active editor so they can remotely access all of a university library’s online holdings for free to help write more and better Wikipedia articles. These positions are unpaid and do not require relocation or even physical proximity to the institution.

GMU Takes on the First Wikipedia Visiting Scholar

The Wikipedia Library partnered with leading library cooperative OCLC and took full advantage of the phenomenal outreach abilities of OCLC library researcher Merrilee Proffitt. Through a series of presentations, webinars and emails, we reached out to 150 institutions about the WVS program.

GMU WVS editor Wehwalt plans to focus on history topics such as William Jennings Bryant.

In the fall of 2013, the first WVS position was proposed by THATCamp leader Amanda French at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. French describes the original idea:

One of the main things that attracted me to the Visiting Scholar model is that I immediately saw how it would fit into existing university structures and practices. It’s a very common thing indeed for a researcher to go spend some time at another university or research center in order to use their resources and contribute to their intellectual mission, so I understood at once how it would work.

After collecting applications in late 2013, GMU selected a Wikipedian to become their new Wikipedia Affiliate. Their choice was veteran featured article writer Wehwalt, a prolific contributor who lacked home access to the academic and journal databases available through GMU Libraries. French describes:

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Call for Individual Engagement Grant proposals: community experiments wanted

IEG barnstar

Do you have an idea for a project that could improve Wikipedia or another Wikimedia community?

The Wikimedia Foundation and the Individual Engagement Grants Committee are seeking proposals for community-led experiments to have online impact in the Wikimedia movement. Individual Engagement Grants support individuals and small teams of Wikimedians to lead projects for 6 months. You can get funding to turn your idea into action with a grant for online community organizing, outreach and partnerships, tool-building, or research. Proposals are due by 31 March 2014.

Past grantees have been testing new ways to encourage women to edit Wikipedia, improve workflows for Wikimedia’s cartographers, raise awareness of Wikipedia in China and Africa, coordinate a global Wikisource strategy, increase free access to reliable sources for Wikipedians, and more. Proposals for up to $30,000 are considered; most grantees are awarded between $300 and $15,000 to support a wide range of activities and expenses, including project management, consultants, materials, and travel.

Grantees say that participating in the program has helped them build confidence and expertise in experimental setup and execution of community projects. As a grantee from the first round put it, “IEG gave me the opportunity to work in a more professional way on projects I really like, and in the end it gave me more expertise and experience and hope that issues can be solved. It offered solutions, and it taught me that solutions can be built, if you work on them.”

What’s new for 2014

The Individual Engagement Grants program is now available in more languages thanks to the efforts of volunteer translators! To celebrate this broader global reach, and in honor of WikiWomen’s history month, we hope you’ll share even more ideas for projects aimed at increasing diversity in the movement.

Ideas for all new projects are always welcome in the IdeaLab, and throughout the month of March, we’ll be hosting proposal clinic Hangouts to help you turn your idea into a grant proposal in real time. Please stop by to say hello, ask a question, or share some advice during these IdeaLab Hangout hours. We look forward to seeing your proposal by March 31st.

Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants

Wikipedia helps immigrants learn Swedish

Some of the SFI students in Värnamo during their introductory Wikipedia workshop.

To start using the Internet as an adult can be hard. In 2013 Wikimedia Sverige decided to reach out to a very underrepresented group of people – immigrants. In Sweden, research has shown that immigrants learning Swedish as a new language are very interested in learning how to use the internet and incorporating that into their education. However, teachers find it tricky to integrate web participation into the curriculum. We figured (surprise surprise) that multilingual Wikipedia would make a great tool for teachers to use! Both to teach the students basic Swedish language skills and to naturally integrate computer use into their education.

We partnered up with GR Utbildning and managed to find external funding from the Internet Infrastructure Foundation (.SE) for a project aiming at changing the current curriculum, one teacher at the time. (We strongly suggest that you look around for funds available in your country too –  feel free to ask us for pointers). We teamed up with three Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) teachers in two different schools and started teaching them about Wikipedia.

In order to work efficiently on Wikipedia, it’s necessary to know the basics of writing. After a discussion with the teachers, we decided focus on students who possessed academic backgrounds. It turned out these students were still more proficient in reading than writing Swedish. We decided that the most suitable way for them to contribute would be to have them translate from Swedish into their respective native languages.

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Individual Engagement Grants demonstrate their potential for impact

This post is available in 3 languages: English  • Zh-hant 正體中文 Zh-hans 简体中文

Round 1 IEG projects

English

A year ago, Wikipedia didn’t have a social media presence in China. With the support of a $350 Individual Engagement Grant, today 10,000 Chinese readers follow the Wikipedia account on Weibo, China’s most active social networking site. Chinese Wikipedians are able to use the channel to share Wikipedia’s knowledge and organize events in China like Wiki Loves Monuments. A year ago, there were no guarantees that a few one-off donated accounts to paywall journals could be grown into a digital hub providing free access to reliable sources for Wikipedians and pioneering new models of collaboration between Wikipedia and libraries. With the support of a $7500 Individual Engagement Grant, today 1500 Wikipedia editors have access to 3700 free accounts and The Wikipedia Library is laying plans to go global. Grantees like Addis Wang and Jake Orlowitz were clear about their goals, eager to engage with the community to understand their needs and priorities and willing to take risks and experiment in search of pragmatic and scalable solutions. They incorporated experts and mentors into their process to build platforms that are larger than any one individual.

The Individual Engagement Grants program was launched a year ago with the idea of supporting individual Wikimedians like Addis and Jake to lead projects focused on experiments driving online improvements. This program, too, began as experiment with some risks and no guarantees. And so as the first round of grants come to a close, with the help of an assessment by WMF’s Grantmaking Learning & Evaluation team, we’re taking a look at the impact of these projects and what we’ve learned so far.

Early indicators of impact

The first round of IEG funding distributed about US $60,000 to support eight experimental projects led by community members in six different countries. Half were focused on online community organizing, the rest either built tools or conducted offline outreach. More time is needed to determine the full impact of these grants on their target wikis or as scaled programs across wikis, but early indicators suggest that these grants can have a direct impact on the strategic goals of the Wikimedia movement.

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