Meet the 2020 Wikimedian of the Year: Sandister Tei

Sandister Tei of Accra, Ghana, was announced today as the 2020 Wikimedian of the Year. 

When Sandister Tei first started editing Wikipedia in 2012, contributions from her home country of Ghana comprised less than one percent of total edits made to the website globally. 

Limited access to the internet and internet-enabled devices certainly contributed to the low levels of participation. But, from Sandister’s perspective, the bigger issue was a general lack of awareness about Wikipedia, how it worked, and how to get involved. 

“I was really excited how you click edit and then you can make changes to the information you see, and then it goes live and people find it useful. I was totally intrigued by that.”

— Sandister on editing Wikipedia for the first time in 2012

Sandister set out on a mission to change this.

Since that time, Sandister has helped found the first Ghanaian Wikimedia community; recruit and train new local volunteers; and encourage Ghana’s participation in larger Wikimedia initiatives, such as Wiki Loves Monuments.

Sandister teaching a Wikipedia workshop at Republica Accra 2018

“It’s not just about editing Wikipedia; you can also build communities around it.”

— Sandister Tei

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandister and the rest of the Ghanian Wikimedia community faced many challenges, as lockdown regulations forced the cancellation of all in-person gatherings and events. Not only did Sandister help her User Group stay connected and informed, but she also contributed actively to Wikipedia articles about the pandemic’s impact in Ghana. This helped make information about the pandemic more accessible to people in Ghana, and it educated the rest of the world about how COVID-19 was affecting Ghana. 

“I look around me now, and I see Ghanaian and Sub Saharan African excellence movement-wide.”

— Sandister on the growth of the Wikimedia Ghana community

Today, in celebration of her pioneering and tireless work with the Wikimedia Ghana User Group, Sandister was named the 2020 Wikimedian of the Year! 

The Wikimedian of the Year is an annual tradition to honor the efforts of one of the movement’s exceptional contributors. Typically, Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales announces the name of the recipient during his closing remarks at Wikimania. Of course, this year, things happened somewhat differently (Wikimania 2020 in Bangkok was postponed due to COVID-19). But the announcement was still as special as ever. 

In fact, Jimmy Wales surprised Sandister with the news of the award over a video call, and you can see some highlights from the recording yourself here:

Surprise call with Sandister CC BY-SA 4.0

As Jimmy says, “In a community dedicated to free knowledge, Wikimedians of the Year are the closest things we have to celebrity. … But the Wikimedian of the Year is about more than an award — it’s a recognition of the role that volunteers play in this huge, sprawling global movement.” 

We could not agree more. And we are thrilled to recognize Sandister’s remarkable contributions to the Wikimedia movement. 

“I hope that Wikipedia in whichever shape or form it’s in by then (even if it’s a chip to be installed in the brain), would be even more relevant to open knowledge contributors, and the users.”

— Sandister on her hopes for Wikipedia in 20 years

Learn more about the 2020 Wikimedian of the year announcement on Medium. Watch the recorded livestream event on YouTube.