There are several kinds of knowledge gaps, for example the generational gap in knowledge between the old and the young, the technological gap between the Global North and the Global South. The most important one for me though is the “Know-Do” gap.
If we are to carefully consider knowledge as “all the facts that someone knows about a particular subject” and equity as “a fair and reasonable way of behaving towards people, so that everyone is treated in the same way” (cf. Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners) – it only makes sense that if we as a Movement, we deal with free knowledge, we should then work towards it collectively. While some factors are the same across the board, to state a fact we already know, there is “no one size fits all” approach on how this can be achieved.
Seniors represent a valuable resource having accumulated a wealth of knowledge throughout their careers. Wikimedia Israel’s Wikipedia Editing Program for Seniors provides them with Wikipedia editing training and opportunities for engagement within the community of Hebrew Wikipedia editors. Their knowledge is of important value for society, but this group is facing some barriers – but a lot of them are insignificant barriers and we give them the tools to be a part of the editing community so they can contribute information that can be useful for their group of age as well as everyone else.
We are working on trying to get as many seniors to join our course, women and men equally.
Our challenge lies in getting senior program graduates fitting in the local Hebrew Wikipedia community after they finish the course. A big advantage of this program is that Wikipedia thus will be provided with a lot more diverse knowledge from different point of views of multiple generations. The second advantage is that this program means a lot to the seniors who participate and changes their life. After retiring, some of them feel like they are not active and productive anymore, this program is a great match for those people and gives them a meaningful purpose to use their free time.
Nevertheless, Seniors face mostly social barriers, they feel the online world is rather a “young world”. But teaching them in the program, the technical part of editing Wikipedia articles is not the core of the course: Wikipedia as a community and the structures that lie beneath is most often the hardest to learn.
Getting people to apply to our courses is a long learning process for us. When they apply, they get tested on their technical skills, so we can dedicate our lesson to Wikipedia tech only. Our goal is adding quality content to the Hebrew Wikipedia; our training enables them to make changes and provides help to make them appear in the articles. Our secondary goal is helping seniors to be an important and valued part of society through Wikipedia.
We see that senior citizens are the group that keeps on adding content after having learnt the editing skills, a third of all graduates keep on editing! The challenge is to make elderly users understand the meaning of open content, and knowing that everything can get edited by another Wikipedian even if he or she is not a professional in that matter. People from that age group are mostly used to the old world knowledge hierarchy. But they have the possibility to contribute to the sum of knowledge by writing about their topics of interest: whether it be virus subjects, fiber art or a retired Geography professor editing dozens of geography related articles.
Yes, this program started small, but we see the great feedback of the participants and a growing number of articles, so the program pays off for both sides. Senior citizens have so much to give back to society, so we opened more and more courses in different parts of Israel and will continue providing help.
My name is Mahuton, I’m from Benin, but I live most of the time in France. I started editing Wikipedia in 2015. Back then, I was looking for a way to make knowledge accessible to people who don’t speak French or English in my country and I thought Wikipedia would be, by far, the best place for that. But I realized there was no Wikipedia in any language of Benin. So my question was: What can I do to establish a Wikipedia in Fon? Fon is the most spoken national language in Benin.
In 2018 I attended the Wikimedia Hackathon in Barcelona, as was I invited after the official registration period by Tony Hermoza, a Spanish wikimedian. By coincidence, on the first day of the event, I met Amir Aharoni, software developer for languages at the Wikimedia Foundation, on the corridor. We got to know each other and shared the projects we are working on, so I told him about the lack of Wikipedia editions in any of the Beninise languages – “in my country more than 4 million people speak French, but we no Wikipedia in a local language”. So Amir told me that we could fix that together.
Despite the fact that Fon uses the Latin alphabet, there are some special characters that are not common. So for many it is actually challenging to write Fon correctly because of the missing keyboard layouts. So Amir and I, we started to develop a Fon keyboard layout based on an existing library. The first tests went smoothly, so Amir quickly deployed a Fon Wikipedia project in the Wikimedia Incubator. He also asked another Wikimedian who designed a Wikipedia logo in Fon.
Right after, I started writing first articles in Fon. And to be honest, the Fon Wikipedia is the first website entirely written in Fon and I’m really proud of that. I think it’s important to promote the most spoken language of Benin also online. Even if it is a little bit difficult to recruit new contributors for the Fon Wikipedia, we are making progress. First contributors started writing articles, making knowledge accessible for all in our own language is something that really makes me proud.
Soon, I hope to be able to travel to my home country and to visit the Fon-speaking parts of Benin to raise awareness about the Wikipedia in Fon – and I think also to make it aware to Beninese decision makers. I would also love to see some financial support to organize editathons and workshops to teach how to edit in the Fon Wikipedia. I expect to launch the really first Fon contributors community in March next year!
I am Bara’a, an architect, from Hebron in Palestine. I am an editor of the Arabic Wikipedia since 2017. I participated in many editing competitions, conferences and workshops, but I am also the leader of the Wikipedia Education Programs in Palestine and activities and events leader in the cross-country Wikimedia affiliate “Wikimedia Levant”. These activities allow me to get to know new editors by our workshops, events and education programs that I personally supervised in schools and universities. All these efforts are supporting people to contribute, edit, add and share free knowledge. Our students are quite diverse, male and female, of different ages and specialties, and this is reducing the knowledge gender gap between them.
Here in Palestine, we have many difficulties attracting new editors – I think it’s more difficult than in other countries. In certain areas of Palestine, we are not allowed to hold events and workshops because of political conditions and military occupation, such as borders and barriers. Also, because of the movement restrictions we organize online workshops, but the attraction is much lower, than for an offline workshop. In addition to the lack of awareness about the need and possibility to contribute to and support free content, sometimes we suffer from the problem of obtaining a visa to attend conferences or workshops that may be in other foreign countries – especially for us volunteers. I personally have been confronted with this issue and was returned to my home for no reason.
The general problem lies in the small number of female editors that engage in my country, those that create programs, workshops and help to change the idea “that only men can contribute to this work”. We need to support the principle of equality and put forward that freedom of knowledge is a right for every human being, independently of the gender. Many women here lack the motivation to contribute to Wikipedia. On top of that, not all students have devices to enable them to access the internet and obtain free information. While in my city, Hebron, the internet connectivity is rather good, parts of Palestine, like Gaza, have only internet for a few hours per day. How do you want to motivate anyone to contribute to Wikipedia under these conditions?
In the future, we need to focus more on the involvement of feminists in events or editing workshops. By supporting them, technically, but also morally, we provide a safe environment in which they experience freedom of speech and opinion.
“Knowledge Equity” essentially means fixing an imbalance via two means: equal access to knowledge for groups traditionally excluded from it, and recognition of the knowledge possessed by different social groups and demographics. Women, for example, were not allowed opportunities for formal education or even basic literacy in the Indian subcontinent around the 19th century. Women also continue to be denied the freedom of speech and expression in many parts of the world. The stories, academic works, books, folklore, oral histories and everyday practices of less privileged social groups shine a light on the point of view and the lived experiences of people who have been traditionally overshadowed by more dominant social groups. However, oral transmissions are not acknowledged as legitimate sources of knowledge. At best these are considered anecdotal evidence, “memories”, or “unreliable sources” of knowledge.
For me, ‘knowledge equity’ is an idealization, a goal, something that we pursue and that motivates us to propose actions that make possible the participation and contributions of more people to the Wikimedia movement. I think we all have something to contribute, knowledge that has been inherited from our ancestors and that is based on interactions, stay and territorial appropriation. The ways in which we have organized ourselves, our own dynamics and the solutions we have found to the different challenges we encounter in the places in which we find ourselves.
I am convinced that people’s ability to access and contribute towards depends on such resources as sustainable cultural infrastructure and purchasing power that allow for free time to invest into non-productive creative endeavors. The Wikidata heat map seems to support this as well – our collective Wikimedia Knowledge Equity is neither complete, nor sustainably diverse and multilingual enough.
This map doesn’t cover the skies and non-material spheres, but it hints towards cultures whose Knowledge we lack most. We can’t force people to become self-less, so the only other way of achieving diverse and sustainable Knowledge Equity is to support and empower the left out communities with knowledge that will help them better utilize own potential and strengthen their economic power to overcome diversity of barriers they face. “Technical, social and political barriers” are clearly not the predominant reasons preventing people from taking part in Wikimedia projects within my home country, and I think the same is true in other darker areas.
All this and more happens thanks to Unknown heroes – the volunteer wiki-contributors we might never meet or even think about, so we are trying our best to praise to at least some. Since 2011, Wikimedia Russia awards annual Wiki-Prizes, and we are now also looking at ways of how to make this recognition more frequent. This past year we teamed up with a like-minded NGO partner interested in growing domestic multilingualism and ended up awarding leading Wikimedians not just with prizes, but also diplomas signed by regional ministers for Education & Culture.
Just like any other country, my homeland is experiencing complex economic, political, social and technical challenges in its domestic and international relations. The fact that Wikimedia Foundation can’t fund Wikimedia Russia puts us into the category of self-sustaining Wikimedia organizations, just like it is recommended by 2030 Strategy process. We have a lot to learn from all the 30+ language communities of Russia that have active Wikipedias, other projects and others in the Wiki-incubator.
Until 2030, I would love to see the Wikidata heat map become much brighter and available in as many languages as possible. But also I think we need a global Russian language Wikimedia Thematic Organization, with local groups in all major cities around the world that have speakers of Russian. Locally, we need a system to start engaging all language communities residing in Russia into editing Wikimedia projects, beginning with the largest ones.
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Farhad’s speech during the closing ceremony of Wikimania 2019 (text, video)
Wiki Derechos Humanos (Wiki Human Rights) is a project by Wikimedia Argentina, which was born in 2018 and has been working in collaboration with other Wikimedia chapters in the region since then. It is an Argentinian-made experience in response to generating quality and updated information on Wikipedia on crimes against humanity perpetrated in our country during the last civil-military dictatorship.
The first articles created and improved were related to the Memoria, Verdad y Justicia process. This is did not come about by chance. Argentina was one of the first countries in bringing to trial armed forces members & co-operation actors of the de facto governments that wielded power under the Operation Condor. Thus, the creation of Wiki Human Rights was kind of a natural path.
Much of my work has been working on systemic barriers around access to quality information.Knowledge equity means ensuring access to information in an environment which respects human rights. I would say that adding more content doesn’t equal knowledge equity. I think we have to be really careful not to equate “filling gaps” with equity.
For example, mass uploads of content doesn’t produce equity if there are things in that content that are harmful in some way (i.e. colonial). And further, we need to consider whether we have the right to someone’s knowledge or a community’s knowledge. Sometimes gaps are intentional and sometimes gaps equal equity. It’s our responsibility to take these issues as central to working toward knowledge equity. And we can do this by involving more people from the communities we intend to serve.
When you know that many people in this world lived and died thinking they are “ill” and “not normal” because no one provided them with the correct information, or when the information is available for them but they can’t understand it because of language barriers, you know there is no knowledge equity. Also from another side, when people from the “global north” believe in the stereotypes that the media communicates about “the global south”, you know that knowledge inequality exists worldwide and is not a local issue.