Last week I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on the Wikimedia
Foundation's upcoming work in India with a reporter from TimeOut, who
had interviewed Bishakha Datta on the WMF Board.
While the activities of the WMF in India have yet to be fully defined, I
thought the responses to the reporter would be interesting to share with
you all. They are appended below. Happy to discuss any aspect of the
responses that might not be clear.
In addition, I am in the process of planning my visit to INdia from
20-24 Sept. I will be in Mumbai on 20-21, Delhi on 22 and Bangalore on
23-24. My objective for the visit is to spend time with community
members and the chapter representatives to discuss ways WMF can work
with and along side the chapter and community to advance our shared
mission in India. I will also be meeting with friends and advisors of
Wikimedia and I may be conducting interviews for possible staff roles
with Wikimedia in India. More on this soon.
I hope to have the opportunity to spend time with as many of you as are
available during this visit.
*Responses to questions from Time Out India, Aditya Kundalkar*
*Prepared by Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer, Wikimedia
*August 19, 2010*
*Why was India chosen for Wikimedia Foundation's office?*
We selected India as a priority country for investment during our
five-year strategic planning process that we completed in collaboration
with the Wikimedia community. India is a great fit for a number of
reasons, including the large and growing population of Internet users,
the existence of a committed and growing community of Wikimedia editors
and volunteers in India, and the potential to better-understand
important issues that would advance the Wikimedia movement globally.
These areas for learning include the challenge of growing language
projects that are currently small, the question of how to enable a
richer mobile experience, and how to provide access to Wikipedia for
people without Internet access. We see India as a great place to both
advance our mission and learn.
*It is the first office outside of the US, isn't it?*
Yes, it will be our first office outside of the US and we are excited
that India will be at the forefront of our global development
activities. We are also looking forward to the official formation of
Wikimedia India, an independent, local chapter, which was recently
approved by our Board of Trustees and is awaiting regulatory approval.
The local Wikimedia India chapter will be a close partner of ours.
*Do you feel that there are too few Indian editors as compared to Indian
users of Wikipedia? *
It is very clear that there are too few Indian editors today, even
though we do not have the data on the exact number. Wikipedia is one of
the leading websites in India and while there is great knowledge
available to our Indian readers, our projects are nowhere near their
full potential. For example, there are 230 million speakers of Bengali
worldwide, yet there are only 21,500 articles in the Bengali Wikipedia.
Hindi is spoken by 550 million, yet there are only 59,300. The same is
true for most of the languages of India with the exception of English.
For comparison, the English Wikipedia has over 3 million articles. I
would also imagine that there are many important topics of interest to
Indians that are not yet well covered in the English Wikipedia, despite
its size. We're interested in increasing participation from Indian
editors --not matter what language they speak--English included. Our
main focus in increasing the diversity of voices to the encyclopedias.
*Why is that so?*
We believe that the reason why we don't have enough editors is
multi-faceted, but resolvable through the concerted action of our
community with the support of the Wikimedia India chapter and the
Wikimedia Foundation team. The number one opportunity is to make people
aware that they can edit Wikipedia and help them learn how. We also have
some technical challenges with Indic languages, like many websites, that
we want to solve with the community to make it easier to work with.
*Internet connectivity and the will to contribute seem to be the two
most important things for Wikipedia's success and growth. What are the
challenges you face here in India to ensure that these two factors stay
We are optimistic that the Indian community will continue to grow and
thrive, though we think the recipe for success will probably differ
somewhat from the US or Western Europe, where Wikimedia is very mature.
Our core approach of volunteer-driven editing is working in India and
our focus will be on expanding that through outreach efforts to build
awareness and partnerships with educational institutions, ICT programs
Internet connectivity is very important, of course and in India (and
much of the world), we are going to have to figure out how to make
editing possible via mobile devices. This will be a development priority
for our technology development community and staff. Mobile editing will
open us up to many new editors and a wide range of innovations.
*Do you see greater potential for donations coming in through the India
We hope that Indians will make donations to support Wikimedia's work. We
already have donors from India and we hope that more Indians will learn
about our work and be inspired to donate as we grow our projects.
Wikimedia is largely funded by thousands of small donations from a
broad, global community, over 250,000 people last year. This helps keep
our projects safe, sustainable and growing.
*Is there a perception among Indians (especially potential users of
Wikipedia, not editors) that something that they're getting for free is
not as valuable or trustworthy as something they pay for?*
We think of Wikipedia as a living, evolving public service-- a free
resource providing readers the information they need to
better-understand the world around them. And although I can't speak for
the people of India in terms of trustworthiness and value, but it seems
that their actions speak for themselves -- we are a top ten website in
India according to comScore - and over 375 million people all over the
world access Wikipedia monthly.
What's really exciting for us is that we know the integrity of our
encyclopedias only increase when more, diverse people participate and
contribute. That's a principal driver in seeking to invite more people
to edit the projects. And the great thing is that if there are mistakes,
anyone can fix them and as more people edit, this process helps create a
valuable and highly trustworthy encyclopedia. Our movement aspires to
make highly valuable and trustworthy Wikipedias available to everyone -
in India and around the world.
Chief Global Development Officer
Tel: +1-415-839-6885 x. 634