A little over a month ago, a group of Indian Wikimedians from 15 different language communities gathered in Bangalore to attend the India Community Consultation 2014, the first such consultation at this scale, convened by the Wikimedia Foundation. The meeting had representation of volunteers from the Assamese, Bangla, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and Sanskrit language Wikipedia communities. The meeting was attended by six representatives of the Wikimedia India chapter Executive Committee (WMIN EC) as well as three members of the Access to Knowledge Programme of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS-A2K) and the CIS Executive Director Sunil Abraham. The Wikimedia Foundation was represented by Head of Wikimedia Grants and Global South Partnerships Asaf Bartov, Senior Director of Grantmaking Anasuya Sengupta, Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees Patricio Lorente, Trustee Bishakha Datta and Chief Financial Officer Garfield Byrd.
The aims of this meeting were:
- Share views and preferences on the most effective ways to pursue our common vision of creating and sharing free knowledge in India and in the Indian languages (including English) around the world.
- Attempt to come to agreement on a roadmap for a future where our resources are better utilized, our volunteers are better served, and progress on our mission is more steadily attained.
This proposed roadmap can become the basis for programmatic activity in India by the different editing communities, the Wikimedia India chapter, CIS-A2K, and the Wikimedia Foundation, and any future Wikimedia User Groups in India, to promote the Wikimedia mission in India.
The Wikimedia Foundation arranged for the travel and stay of all non-local participants, as well as a night stay for all local participants between the first and second day, to ensure that the programme started on time on the second day and to overcome local travel difficulty (morning traffic).
The sessions were facilitated by Mr. Gagan Sethi, an experienced facilitator in the non-profit sector from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He supported the attendees in visioning and strategizing exercises, and in collecting the ideas budding in the minds of the participants and capturing agreement points during discussions.
- National WikiConferences for geographically disparate communities (e.g. Hindi Wikipedia) (see this presentation by User:Hindustanilanguage).
- Promoting the sister projects such as Wikisource or Wiktionary in languages where Wikipedia has a vibrant community with good organic growth.
- Recognition of various movement partners (more plurality and diversity) such as free software groups, Indic language computing organizations, open education groups etc.
- Easy idea exchange across Indic Wikimedia communities.
- Cross-border collaborations with neighboring countries for shared languages. (see also current plans for the Bangla Wikipedia anniversary celebrations in India and in Bangladesh)
- Notability issues and systemic bias as a challenge for English Wikipedia editors from India (especially by non-Indian English Wikipedians who may not understand context)
- The urgent need to find a new method of measuring contributions other than by edit counts
- opening up content, digitization, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems. (see also current grant proposal for Tamil OCR, and current grant proposal for Malayalam palm leaf digitization)
- The special concerns of low-bandwidth readers and editors were brought up, and it was agreed there needs to be more visibility of those issues with WMF Engineering and User Experience teams. Past issues with the deployment of the Universal Language Selector were also mentioned.
There were also discussions on the roles of the Wikimedia India chapter as well as the CIS-A2K programme, the role of communities, individual volunteers, funding via Individual Engagement Grants (IEGs) and Project and Event Grants (PEGs), and the possibilities of institutional partnerships. The sessions benefited from a positive spirit and collegial collaboration, and the participants concluded that the enthusiasm and newfound trust resulting from this community consultation will go a long way in shaping the progress of the Wikimedia movement in India.