The Gap in the Pursuit of Free Knowledge: Lessons Learned from WikiNusantara

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Wikimedia Indonesia just held its fourth annual conference for Wikimedia project volunteers from May 2nd to 5th in Bogor, West Java. Contributors from across the nation, ranging from the westernmost Aceh to the easternmost Papua attended the meeting. Overall, the sessions provided me an insight into the amount of effort that has been done to liberate knowledge in Indonesia, and how much is still needed.

For starters, due to personal issues, I haven’t been able to fully attend the conference due to personal issues. I was only able to attend the first and last day of the conference. The main event for the first day of the conference, which was called the pre-conference, was either the photo walk, workshop, and the WikiCendekia training for Wikimedia projects trainers. I picked the WikiCendekia, which lasted for two days. Due to the aforementioned personal issues, I was only able to attend the first day.

Prior to WikiCendekia, participants of the programme had already been prepared through two WikiLatih online sessions. The first online session, which was brought by the Wikimedia Indonesia Education Team and GLAM, provided participants a general overview of the WikiLatih (Wikimedia project training) six main Wikimedia Projects (Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, Wikidata, Wikisource, Wikibooks, and Wiktionary). Through this first online session, I gained a more in-depth understanding of these projects, as I’ve only been active in Wikipedia. The next online session was more complex, as I was brought to study the heart of every WikiLatih, which were the paperwork and financial administration. The entire session baffled me a bit, and thus I asked a lot of questions, especially regarding the financial aspect. Although the entire session was a bit difficult to understand, I’ve managed to capture the essentials.

The offline session of WikiCendekia began on the 2nd of May. The first part of the session talked about the general rules and policy in the Indonesian Wikipedia, as well as the five pillars that built Wikipedia as it is now. My key takeaway from the first part is the sheer amount of governance that goes in ensuring Wikipedia as it is today. As an admin, it has to be admitted that there are still a lot of problems in enforcement of these general rules and policy, which was mostly due to a lack of manpower and willpower. At the end of the first part, the participants were divided into the several groups, with each group writing about an article that complies to Wikipedia’s standards. The interesting part is the fact that almost all groups did some mistakes, either major or minor, in their article.

The next part of the session discussed combatting disinformation and hoaxes, which has plagued Wikipedia since its inception. The speaker for this session was Wikipedia editors played a major role in this war against hoax, as editors need to filter and vet public sources to ensure its reliability and validity before using it as a source in articles. At the end of this part, participants were divided into groups and are instructed to verify the accuracy of several faux headlines, as well as deciding whether or not the headline is a hoax. Each group has to present the reasoning behind their decision. After several hours of break, the first offline session of WikiCendekia ended, with the final session being a brief introduction on Wikimedia projects other than Wikimedia.

After attending the first day of WikiNusantara, I was unable to attend the next two days, and was only able to attend the last day of WikiNusantara, on the 5th of May. The last day began with unconference. The unconference was divided into three sessions, with each session hosting eight to nine different unconference separately. The participants were free to attend any unconference in each of the sessions. All of the unconferences that I attended focused on the development of Wikipedia on higher education. The first unconference that I attended was Suardi Sahid, a lecturer from the University of Papua, and discussed the cooperation between Wikimedia and students. In the next session, I led an unconference about the implementation of the skills obtained through Wikimedia projects in daily life. The last session of the conference was also led by a lecturer, Kanya Prasetyo from the Brawijaya University, and discussed about the establishment of Wiki Clubs in Indonesian universities. The unconferences provided an insight into the potential of Wikimedia projects to further the academic cause and improve daily performance. The realization of this potential, however, was hindered due to a lack of interest and resources. More effort should be concentrated in establishing Wiki Clubs and develop interest among students to contribute to Wikimedia projects.

After lunch, WikiNusantara continued with seminar sessions. In the first round of the sessions, I attended a seminar on editing articles related to intelligence and military by Muhammad Nafis Athallah and another on providing media resources to Wikimedia projects by Muhamad Izzul Fiqih. The first round gives us an insight into the effort needed to develop this kind of article and media, especially with the lack of awareness and knowledge from the public regarding the technical part behind the military articles and media materials. The next round focuses on local languages in Indonesia, with a presentation on the recent development and challenges of the Betawi language by Rafif Aufa Nanda and the usage of Lingua Libre on the Gorontalo language from Supardi Sahabu. This language round mostly highlights the successes of the incorporation of the language to Wikipedia, as well as the obstacles and future prospects. The final round of the seminar, which brought up the topic of digital initiatives for indigenous languages, was presented by Ester Dina Sihombing from UNESCO. Ester highlights the similarities between the end goal of Wikimedia and UNESCO and delivered some tips in improving the coverage of endangered and local languages.

Overall, WikiNusantara provided me with an insight into how far the movement has come to further the goal of the Wikimedia movement itself. The developments in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects were actively demonstrated through the presentations and seminars. Initiatives launched by the communities also helped to built the free knowledge compendium as envisioned. However, the current effort is hampered by the lack of various aspects. There are still a huge gap that needs to be crossed to fully liberate the knowledge. Cooperation with key stakeholders such as ministries, NGOs, and institutions with the same goal as the Wikimedia Movement is an important point to reach this final destination.

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