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.
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.
You want to know more?
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.
My name is Sherry Antoine, I’m the program director of AfroCROWD. I think among its meanings, Knowledge Equity means equal access and inclusion for all who pursue knowledge and its curation, creation, and presentation. That includes literal access to the technology that makes Wikipedia possible in the most remote areas of the world regardless of background (who you are) or foreground (where you are, what you have).
During my time directing programming of AfroCROWD, which, founded by Alice Backer, has been around since 2015, we have grown from the local New York City area, all over the United States, with organizers in Europe and partners in Africa and the Caribbean. I am also the lead organizer of the new “Wikimedians of the Caribbean User Group”. Forming in late 2018, and becoming a user group in the spring, “Wiki Cari” as we call it, has already presented or held events around the world. In both groups, Wikimedians of the Caribbean as well as AfroCROWD, we are working on making the most of each opportunity to continually expand and connect the Wikimedia community in the world.
My name is Marc Miquel, I work on a project called Wikipedia Cultural Diversity Observatory (WCDO), which is a joint space for researchers and activists to study Wikipedia’s content diversity coverage, discuss the strategic needs and propose solutions to improve it and fight against the knowledge gaps.
The project wants to explain both the causes of the gaps and to provide a picture of the cultural representation of every language in every place in the world and at the same time, stimulate sharing content across languages. To fight the knowledge gaps, we want to raise awareness by providing different types of resources: datasets, visualizations, and statistics, as well as lists of articles and tools that show the most relevant gaps that need to be bridged.
To me, I think “knowledge equity” means that we apply the principles of democracy and self-determination to the landscape of knowledge production and dissemination. This translates to a lot of things in practice: it is about actively including voices that have historically been silenced; it is about making sure that the ways in which they understand the world are a core part of the way that we design our repositories of knowledge. It means that institutions that claim that knowledge equity is a part of their mission actually provide ecosystems located in our countries for us where we can work, think, and produce.
For me, “Knowledge Equity” means having the inclusion of marginalized voices of our movement. It also means free and easy access to the local cultural heritage and the indigenous knowledge. The problem nowadays are the restrictions and the barriers that stop us from being able to open this knowledge to public – whether it is in the form of restricted public access to the cultural institution works or lack of platforms that support the oral knowledge.
I am Turkish Wikipedian. Because of the difficult political situation and the ban of Wikipedia in my country, I’ll stay anonymous here. Despite all the circumstances, I’m engaged in Wikipedia and I think it is more important than ever. Although the access is banned, we as a community are trying to continue our work. We hold online meetings and generate ideas to disseminate free knowledge. Whatever happens, we try to motivate ourselves to continue working!