Digital citizenship: do we have both rights and duties in the online space?

A digital citizen is a person who uses information technology (IT) to participate in society, politics, and government. Karen Mossberger defines it as ” those who use the Internet regularly and effectively” in her book Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation. They have a comprehensive understanding of digital citizenship, which is responsible and appropriate behavior when using technology.

In the Internet era, we have learned that the educational system is constantly evolving and the Covid-19 pandemic showed us that it is possible to learn in a hybrid or virtual system.  We also learned that the development of social-emotional skills is as important, if not more important, than learning math, science and language; and we must place much more emphasis on the integral well-being of students so that they can cultivate their passions and talents in safe environments, including virtual environments. As the world has been forced to adapt to e-learning, organizations such as the Wikimedia Foundation and the IDB have embarked upon the task of designing and offering courses -in an appealing form-  for students to develop and leverage 21st century skills.

During the last year, IDB and Wikimedia Argentina with support from the Wikimedia Foundation, carried out their first joint project to offer a course “21st Century Skills in Action: Digital Citizenship and Wikimedia Projects” focused on developing life skills and digital citizenship. This course was offered at no cost to young people in Latin America and the Caribbean and its purpose was to strengthen digital literacy and Wikimedia projects from a 21st century skills perspective, to close the content and learning gaps, and to learn about digital citizenship-focused projects. More than 200 young people from 18 countries in the region received this training. 

The call for applications received more than 1,300 inscriptions from young people between 18 and 35 years of age in the region interested in strengthening their digital skills, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, with a focus on digital citizenship. The online course was led by  Wikimedia Argentina’s Education and Human Rights team and had the active participation of 216 young people who from November 1st were enrolled during 4 weeks with materials that addressed topics such as: digital citizenship; Wikipedia as a search and critical writing tool; content gaps in Wikimedia projects; and, finally, the creation of a work proposal for the Wikimedia projects.

As a result of the active participation of the participants, during the course we were able to update and improve 189 articles in the Spanish Wikipedia on topics related to: Genders, Local History, Environmental Sciences, Climate Change, Latin American History, Native Peoples, Southern Pedagogies, Natural Sciences, Free Software, Computer Sciences, Human Rights, Exact Sciences, Latin American and Caribbean Geography, Sociology, Latin American and Caribbean Literature, etc. Some of the articles enhanced within the framework of the course were: Digital Gender Gap; Digital Citizenship; Environmental Education; Intercultural Bilingual Education; Virtual Learning Environment; Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Community Feminism; Gender Equality; among others.

Participants also uploaded more than 200 images of authorship under free licenses via Wikimedia Commons related to local history and contexts, which were later used to illustrate articles in the Spanish Wikipedia. Out of the more than 1,000 participants, 74 young people (44 women and 30 men) successfully completed the course. The students were from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. During the course, participants learned how to use Wikimedia projects as tools for searching, creating and releasing content.

“The course allowed me to better understand the Wiki ecosystem, to recognize the importance
of these processes in order to show new ways of thinking and understanding the world, and that
the voice of minorities also counts as alternative knowledge to the development of humanity.
For indigenous peoples and different diverse groups, it gives them a voice and participation, and
also allow us to view all Wikimedia projects as diverse tools to create and generate knowledge”.

Leonardi José Fernández Fernández Fernández, 29 years old, Colombia

“The course equipped me with 21st century skills, as well as helped me to develop
some that I may not have known I had already acquired. Specifically, I think that
the one that I gained the most was: becoming a digital citizen who can collaborate
and interact online, contributing with content and positive (non-toxic) interactions
to create online communities and collective intelligence”.

Francesca Maria Terrero Santos, 18 years old, Dominican Republic

“The online course enabled me to strengthen my creativity, my self-confidence, my ability to use
digital resources and my confidence to take the necessary steps to improve my initiative and my
autonomy. Even though I have always been a Wikipedia user, I have never ventured into the editing
experience before, nor was I familiar with its main characteristics in terms of how the free
encyclopedia works. I believe that this course has allowed us (mainly those of us who used Wikipedia
only as readers) to break down our fears in relation to the construction of knowledge in a collective
and collaborative way”

Sol Morales, 25 years old, Argentina

Testimonies from some participants in the course “21st Century Skills in Action: Digital Citizenship and Wikimedia Projects” by the IDB and the Wikimedia Foundation.

In order to continue offering personal development opportunities to the participants of the course, the top 10 students will be able to access a 3-month internship in the Wikimedia movement in different countries of Latin America. The selection will be made in early 2022 by an evaluation committee constituted by the IDB, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Argentina. Those selected will support the implementation of programmatic proposals through Wikimedia projects, putting into practice in a real context what was worked on in the training stage during the months of April and June 2022.

Through the IDB’s Vision 2025, the Bank is committed to supporting the countries of the region in addressing the challenges of the present educational trends, especially in support of countries where development gaps hinder the training of students. The IDB’s “Vision 2025, reinventing in the Americas: a decade of opportunities” also includes providing a solid response to COVID-19 that includes access to the necessary skills for the fourth industrial revolution that affects the world and to which students, teachers and parents must adapt, considering an increasingly digitalized trend.

In order to support this roadmap, the IDB and the Wikimedia Foundation joined forces to promote greater equity and inclusion in the region by supporting this training program.  The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, inviting everyone to create a world in which every human being can freely share the sum of all knowledge. The Foundation supports a network of affiliated organizations, like Wikimedia Argentina, and is a member of the IDB’s 21st Century Skills Coalition that focuses on ensuring inclusion, equity and quality education in Latin American and Caribbean countries. 

The results of this course not only impacted the students’ knowledge, but also their awareness of each one of the 21st century’s challenges. In addition to the quality of its contents, the course is even more important because it has been designed for citizens of the 21st century. In general, these types of projects provide comprehensive support to the citizens of the 4th industrial revolution by enabling them to navigate the digital reality in which the new generations are immersed. We are excited to explore more opportunities between Wikimedia chapters in the region and the IDB to serve the same vision of free knowledge for the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Stay tuned and follow our blog series on education, economic opportunities, and #skills21 of the IDB’s 21st Century Skills initiative. Download the Future is now and other publications and keep an eye out for our news!

*Invited authors: Luzelena Escamilla is a Strategic Partnerships Specialist at the Wikimedia Foundation, Luisina Ferrante is the Education and Human Rights Program Manager at Wikimedia Argentina, and Cecilia Vázquez is a Specialist in virtual education and technology.

Originally published by Luisina Ferrante, Cecilia Vázquez, Luzelena Escamilla and Liliana Serrano Pájaro on January 8, 2022 on iadb.org