Thanks Kieran: this is a very interesting perspective on the situation, and
one that I wasn't aware of.
I would be perfectly happy to work with a profit-making organisation to help
them provide Wikipedia for Schools to a wider audience, as long as their
aims are compatible with ours, but I would never knowingly support an
organisation that is inimical towards software freedom, so I'll wait to hear
a bit more before committing my time to this.
On 13 May 2011 9:44 PM, "Jessie Wild" <jwild(a)wikimedia.org> wrote:
If you haven't already seen this - nice mention of Wikimedia South Africa!
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Internal-l] "Worthy Online Resource, but Global Cultural
Treasure?" (The New York Times)
Date: Sun, 22 May 2011 21:07:18 -0700
From: Steven Walling <swalling(a)wikimedia.org>
Reply-To: Local Chapters, board and officers coordination (closed
To: Communications Committee <wmfcc-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
CC: Local Chapters, board and officers coordination (closed
Interesting press with direct link to ten.wikipedia.org
<http://ten.wikipedia.org/>. :-) Nice work Wikimedia Deutschland!
Worthy Online Resource, but Global Cultural Treasure?
By Kevin J. O'Brien
BERLIN — In its 10 years of existence, Wikipedia, the global online
encyclopedia, has amassed an archive of 18 million entries in 279
languages. It is one of the 10 most popular Web sites on the Internet.
But is the volunteer-driven data depository an endangered world cultural
treasure worthy of protection, like French cuisine, the Argentine tango
or the Grand Canyon?
That is the long-shot bet being made by Wikipedia, which plans to begin
a global petition drive Tuesday to earn a spot on one of the world
heritage lists of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural
The bid, the first by a digital entity for a place on a Unesco list,
will no doubt be controversial among heritage professionals advising
Unesco, who tend to view online innovation as lacking the necessary
effect or maturity for listing.
“Heritage professionals tend to be rather conservative types, or they
wouldn’t choose this kind of occupation,” said Britta Rudolff, a
heritage consultant who teaches on the subject at the Brandenburg
University of Technology in Cottbus, Germany. “They like to play with
the past, and something only a decade old is going to face challenges.”
The idea of landing Wikipedia on a Unesco world heritage list came out
of Germany, where volunteers have produced 1.2 million entries, second
only to the number in English. Wikipedia’s German overseer, a Berlin
nonprofit called Wikimedia, proposed the idea in March to Wikipedia
chapters at a global conference in the German capital.
The reception was enthusiastic, said a Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales.
“The basic idea is to recognize that Wikipedia is this amazing global
cultural phenomena that has transformed the lives of hundreds of
thousands of people,” Mr. Wales said in an interview. He said the online
encyclopedia had helped educate people around the world, providing a
wealth of basic facts, background information and key context.
Mr. Wales also said that one aim of the petition drive — supporters can
register at a special Web page, Wikipedia 10 — is to raise awareness of
“Of course, part of what we are trying to do is promote the idea of
Wikipedia as a cultural phenomenon,” Mr. Wales said. “Too often, people
think about us purely in terms of technology, when this is about
culture, high tech and learning.”
Wikipedia is hoping to earn a place on Unesco’s most prestigious list,
the World Heritage List, which so far includes only historic monuments
and natural sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of
China. Failing that, Wikipedia could aim for Unesco’s Intangible
Cultural Heritage List, a lesser-known directory that includes
endangered traditions and practices, like flamenco.
Getting Wikipedia on either list will be an uphill battle. It will have
to negotiate a complicated approval process and overcome the skeptical
regard of Unesco and heritage consultants to be considered for
recognition. Susan Williams, the head of external media relations at
Unesco in Paris, said a bid by a digital entity like Wikipedia would be
“Anyone can apply,” said Ms. Williams, who added that she was not aware
of Wikipedia’s plans. “But it may have difficulty fulfilling the criteria.”
One of the criteria for inclusion, she said, is that the culture or
practice be endangered.
She said that Wikipedia might consider applying for a third, even less
known honor, the Unesco Memory of the World Register list, which
recognizes valuable archive holdings and library collections. That list,
however, lacks the prestige of the others, which are funded more
generously and promoted more assiduously by Unesco and its member countries.
Mr. Wales said Wikipedia was hoping to set off a debate over the role of
digital innovation in world culture. While Wikipedia, which allows
anyone to write or edit entries, has had problems with accuracy and
plagiarism, the organization has worked to improve its editorial
controls and to help people in repressive or less affluent societies.
In Iran, where the government has periodically shut down or censored
portions of Wikipedia’s service, the online Web site is helping young
Iranians obtain information on health issues like HIV and has given some
a rare forum to post information and share views about recent
“I think Wikipedia is playing a significant role in spreading
information in Iranian society at the moment,” said one Iranian college
student in Germany, who is a regular contributor to Wikipedia’s Farsi
content, which includes 128,000 entries. The student, who did not want
to be identified for fear of government reprisal against his family,
said that about 100 students accounted for the bulk of Wikipedia Farsi
Volunteers use pseudonyms when making or editing entries, he said,
adding that the site was well read in Iran, inviting censorship and
periodic government shutdowns during civil unrest. In the past three
months, the Iranian government has allowed access to the site.
“This gives us a window on the world that we would not normally have,”
Similarly, in South Africa, Wikipedia is playing a role in providing
free information and learning materials in schools, many of which lack
the money to buy books and maintain libraries, said Charlene Foster, an
organizer of Wikipedia South Africa. The group in March began generating
entries in Afrikaans and Northern Sotho and will do so eventually in the
country’s nine other official languages.
Aside from providing local-language access to basic information,
Wikipedia is giving South Africans a chance to write their own history,
Ms. Foster said.
“South Africa and the African continent has been marginalized in terms
of information and cultural value,” Ms. Foster said. “But Wikipedia is
helping us with access to information for education not found in libraries.”
On a practical level, Wikipedia will have to do more than just gather
signatures on a petition. Under Unesco rules, Wikipedia must find a
country to sponsor its nomination to either the World Heritage or
Intangible Cultural Heritage List. In the interview, Mr. Wales said he
hoped that Germany would sponsor Wikipedia’s bid for the World Heritage
Getting nominated for the Intangible Cultural Heritage list will be more
difficult. The United States and Germany are not signatories to the 2003
convention that created this list and cannot act as sponsors.
But South Africa did sign on, and Ms. Foster, who lives in Johannesburg,
said she was in the early stages of asking officials in the government
to discuss the country’s making a bid on behalf of Wikipedia for one of
Even if Wikipedia’s South African supporters can persuade their
government to nominate Wikipedia, getting selected is by no means
guaranteed. Winners are selected by an intergovernmental committee of 24
countries. For the intangible heritage list, those members include Iran
But Ms. Foster, an organizational development consultant, said it was
worth a try.
“We are realistic about it,” Ms. Foster said. “This has never been done
before. But we believe that the contribution Wikipedia has made is a
good argument in itself.”
Fellow at Wikimedia Foundation
I would be happy to help any way that I can however I will only be back in
South Africa for one month this year in late August/early September so I am
not so sure how helpful I can be. I agree with Kieran in that we should
proceed cautiously. Although I must admit that I am just as distrustful of
NGOs as I am of private firms; which is another way of saying I dont really
care how or who is responsible for the rollout of this project on the ground
so long as it is done as transparency, efficiently and cost effectively as
I also would not like my free labour to be subsidising the some firms profit
margin and would like to know that it the savings are instead going to the
department of education and maximising the rollout.
On 13 May 2011 22:34, <wikimediaza-request(a)lists.wikimedia.org> wrote:
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> Today's Topics:
> 1. Education opportunity in South Africa (Jessie Wild)
> 2. Re: Education opportunity in South Africa (David Richfield)
> 3. Re: Education opportunity in South Africa (Kieran O'Neill)
> 4. Re: Education opportunity in South Africa (Kieran O'Neill)
> 5. Re: Education opportunity in South Africa (Jessie Wild)
> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 13 May 2011 10:38:23 -0700
> From: Jessie Wild <jwild(a)wikimedia.org>
> Subject: [Wikimedia ZA] Education opportunity in South Africa
> To: wikimediaza(a)lists.wikimedia.org
> Message-ID: <BANLkTinZh6zK6ZhQ=C0cM5nWc-=L+BLXVw(a)mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> Hi South Africa Chapter!
> By means of and introduction, my name is Jessie Wild, and I am a Special
> Projects manager for the Global Development department at WMF. I work on a
> variety of projects for the WMF dealing most specifically with Wikimedia &
> Education and increasing the opportunities for access to Wikipedia.
> One such initiative, which I hope you are mostly all aware of, is the
> Offline Wikipedia projects. This is basically about penetration of the
> encyclopedic materials into areas ? particularly secondary schools ?
> consistent access to the Internet. Content subsets of Wikipedia which are
> small enough to fit onto a standard USB stick have been created and
> onto computers in schools around the world as essentially a piece of
> software. ?Wikipedia for Schools? is the most commonly distributed content
> The distribution of this material has been mostly done thus far throughout
> Africa by organizations with broad reach. Wikimedian volunteers, though,
> have done a tremendous amount of work to push this effort, and you may have
> heard specifically of the work done by the Wikimedians in Kenya on this
> front earlier this year.
> I am writing to let you know about a recent email I got from Sangari SA,
> has helped contribute since 2004 Wikipedia for Schools in over 1000 schools
> in South Africa. Amazing! He said the Minister of Basic Education is asking
> for more information about the materials, given the great expense of the
> alternatives (Microsoft Encartha and Brittanica).
> I bring this up for two reasons:
> Pending endorsement from the Minister, the demand for this project could
> be really great across the ~26000 schools in SA.
> There is an updated version of Wikipedia for Schools to be released in
> about a months time
> So I am thinking and wanted to know what YOU all thought: would your
> chapter be interested in getting involved with the potential distribution
> and corresponding training associated with these distributions? That is,
> showing teachers what the materials are like, teaching about the importance
> of open education resources, giving sample classroom usages.
> If this is not something anyone is interested in, that is definitely ok,
> though I of course think it is a great opportunity let alone a great cause
> :) If there are some individuals who would like to join the discussion
> please email me and we could organize a plan for execution!
>  http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Offline_Projects
>  http://schools-wikipedia.org/
> *Jessie Wild
> Global Development, Manager
> Wikimedia Foundation
Hi South Africa Chapter!
By means of and introduction, my name is Jessie Wild, and I am a Special
Projects manager for the Global Development department at WMF. I work on a
variety of projects for the WMF dealing most specifically with Wikimedia &
Education and increasing the opportunities for access to Wikipedia.
One such initiative, which I hope you are mostly all aware of, is the
Offline Wikipedia projects. This is basically about penetration of the
encyclopedic materials into areas – particularly secondary schools – without
consistent access to the Internet. Content subsets of Wikipedia which are
small enough to fit onto a standard USB stick have been created and uploaded
onto computers in schools around the world as essentially a piece of
software. “Wikipedia for Schools” is the most commonly distributed content
The distribution of this material has been mostly done thus far throughout
Africa by organizations with broad reach. Wikimedian volunteers, though,
have done a tremendous amount of work to push this effort, and you may have
heard specifically of the work done by the Wikimedians in Kenya on this
front earlier this year.
I am writing to let you know about a recent email I got from Sangari SA, who
has helped contribute since 2004 Wikipedia for Schools in over 1000 schools
in South Africa. Amazing! He said the Minister of Basic Education is asking
for more information about the materials, given the great expense of the
alternatives (Microsoft Encartha and Brittanica).
I bring this up for two reasons:
Pending endorsement from the Minister, the demand for this project could
be really great across the ~26000 schools in SA.
There is an updated version of Wikipedia for Schools to be released in
about a months time
So I am thinking and wanted to know what YOU all thought: would your
chapter be interested in getting involved with the potential distribution
and corresponding training associated with these distributions? That is,
showing teachers what the materials are like, teaching about the importance
of open education resources, giving sample classroom usages.
If this is not something anyone is interested in, that is definitely ok,
though I of course think it is a great opportunity let alone a great cause
:) If there are some individuals who would like to join the discussion
please email me and we could organize a plan for execution!
Global Development, Manager