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Rena Takiguchi learned about local politics in Togo on Wikipedia. She’s pictured here in the courtyard of the Shitennō-ji temple in Osaka, Japan.
“Shitennoji Temple Photo” by Amivi1, under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Rena Takiguchi, a native of Japan, says that she would have been consumed with worry for her friends in Togo, if it were not for the Wikipedia article about the Togolese presidential election in 2010.

Takiguchi worked in Togo as a volunteer for an international student organization that matches students with internships in companies all over the world. Since she was interested in working in Africa, she was offered an opportunity in Togo, to hone her development skills in international corporations. Takiguchi worked for six months with a local NGO that dealt with HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness in Togo — where she stayed until January of 2009. She returned to visit Togo in August 2009 and was able to maintain ties with the friends she had made by using email and social networks.

She became aware of the Togolese election soon after she left — and was concerned, even though her friends did not say much about the election. Then she came across a troubling news article that suggested the possibility of a riot. “I was worried, so I started to search for more articles, but I couldn’t find any deep information about it on the internet.” says Takiguchi. “And one day I came down to this Wikipedia article. It was really, really surprising. I had no idea who in the world had this information – collected it and shared it – it was amazing.”

Takiguchi said she couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find reliable information about the Togo elections outside of Wikipedia. After thinking how much that article helped put her mind at ease, Takiguchi says it inspired her to make a donation and write a message. Like many other Japanese Wikipedia users, she also relies on Wikipedia for many things such as writing college papers and researching topics in general.

Along with her financial donation to the Wikimedia Foundation, she wrote this message:

“I used to volunteer for an NGO in Togo for several months. Once after I came back home there was a presidential election in Togo in 2010. The competition was harsh between the incumbent president and the opposition leader and I had heard some bad news about it that there was a controversy and even riots. I knew Togo had undergone a terrible riot during the previous election and many people had been killed. I was afraid the same thing would happen at that time. I tried to follow as many news outlets as possible to understand what was really going on but was surprised about how little was available on major news websites. After many searches I came down to this one Wikipedia article “Togolese presidential election 2010”. The article was very comprehensive, precise and up to date: it provided more information than any other news site did.”

Takiguchi, who now resides in Tokyo and works for a company that manufactures equipment for the visually impaired, is still deeply grateful to Wikipedia and the Wikipedians responsible for updating the article.

“A big thank you to Wikipedia for helping me in so many ways, in my studies, my everyday life and this particular situation, thank you!”

Profile by Yoona Ha, Wikimedia Foundation Communications Intern

Interview by Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Foundation Storyteller