Summary: I read today that only 6% of the people on the
ever logged into the Internet. Only about half have ever used a
telephone. So Erik's concerns about schoolchildren in India do
resonate with me. I just think it's too early to settle on any
particular certification scheme.
Last but not least, we should not forget that WP
is intended to be a
useful tool, not just for those who like to write, but for those who like
to read, too. Be it interested adults or curious children, rich or poor,
we want Wikipedia to be accessible. We may want to distribute it on CD-
ROMs and on paper. Then how on Earth are the schoolchildren in India going
to wade through megabytes of Middle Earth mythology and stubs, if not if
we supply them with at least the option to filter articles according to
criteria developed collaboratively by various teams, working together to
find the sparkling gems among the ocean we are creating?
I totally agree with all of this. But I'm not sure that the time is
ripe just yet. Perhaps in another year. I'm open to alternative
points of view on this, but I think we're not close enough yet to
"well rounded" to start seriously worrying about these issues.
The concept is intriguing, but I agree with Jimbo that we still have a
long way to go before we can have any positive impact on the third
world. Just sending them CDs containing "our" encyclopaedia will likely
not accomplish very much. In some of these places the best use for the
CDs would be as frisbees unless they have adequate hardware.
If, as some of us believe, a project like Wikipedia is to have any
influence in the third world it would likely be practical to concentrate
efforts in some selected community or country. We would likely need to
find some co-operative arrangement with the target country, notably with
its education bureaucracy. Even if there is enough hardware
infrastructure simply sending CDs would not be a useful effort, and we
would still have some expense in producing all those CDs. Encarta or
some other large company that is now producing CD-encyclopaedias could
dump its obsolete stock there much more efficiently than we can.
An interesting possibility would arise if we could transfer the "wiki
way" along with the encyclopaedias. Middle Earth mythology may very
well be alien to these cultures, but the wiki way could be applied in a
study of local literature and mythology. I view the critical challenge
for education is to communicate critical thinking skills; this has
become just as important as the traditional 3 Rs. Third world countries
cannot hope cannot hope to advance without that skill being present in
very broad cross-sections of their populations. I believe that
Wikipedia could eventually help there.
It's just something to think about.