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A letter from us to you: our hopes for 2018!
I’m Anasuya Sengupta. I’m a feminist from India who works online for much of the day. In my spare time, I edit Wikipedia, where I mostly write about women and trans activists, especially from Asia and the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Latin America. Unfortunately, very few Wikipedians look like me – brown, female, and from the global South.
Like me, 75% of the online population of the world today comes from the global South – from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America. And 45% of those online are women. Yet public knowledge on the internet – exemplified by Wikipedia – is primarily still written by white men from Europe and North America. Only 20% of the world edits about 80% of the world on Wikipedia currently, and we estimate that 1 in 10 of the editors is female. As a result, Wikipedia has great coverage of the Simpsons and military history, but so much of the world’s knowledge is still missing. Wikipedia – like the rest of the internet – is not yet truly the encyclopedia of the world.
That’s why I started Whose Knowledge? with Siko Bouterse and Adele Vrana: a global multi-lingual campaign to center the knowledge of marginalized communities (the majority of the world) on the internet. We work particularly with women, people of color, LGBTQI communities, indigenous peoples and others from the global South to build and represent more of their own knowledge online.
Why is this work unique and urgent? All of us who care about internet freedom and security talk about access: the connectivity issues that exclude people from digital and online spaces. These are critical issues of infrastructure. And, even as access improves, there are deeper questions that we need to ask: whose voices, faces, and stories are missing from the internet? Whose knowledge is represented on the internet and whose is not? Whose internet, and whose freedoms, are we really defending?
Our work is uniquely and urgently positioned to take on these questions. For the first time ever, we are supporting the leadership of marginalized communities to bring online their oral histories, visual images, and textual knowledges. We work with communities like the Dalit (those formerly and pejoratively known as the “untouchables”) in India, queer human rights defenders in Bosnia, and Kumeyaay Native Americans in the USA. We bring these communities together with allies like technologists, librarians, archivists, and Wikipedians.
With them – and you – we imagine a world in which the internet truly looks like the world we live in: rich and textured, full of the histories and stories of 7.5 billion people, speaking 7000 languages.
Help us make this world a reality, by supporting us in 2018. Join us for the first ever #VisibleWikiWomen’s challenge in March, and the #DecolonizingtheInternet conference in July!
With warm wishes for 2018 to you and yours,
Anasuya, Siko and Adele
…join us to add women’s faces onto Wikipedia!
The problem: Less than 20% of Wikipedia articles of important women have pictures. When women’s faces are missing from Wikipedia, they remain literally invisible.
Our plan: We’ll work with partners across the Wikimedia, women’s rights, library and archives worlds in a challenge to upload notable women’s pictures from different parts of the world onto Wikipedia, as part of International Women’s month.
The change we hope to create: Significantly more women’s faces from around the world will be visible on Wikipedia! That includes pictures of women like Tarana Burke (the creator of the #metoo movement).
What we need: $30,000
…the first ever conference to center marginalised knowledge online!
The problem: 51% of the world is online today, but the internet doesn’t represent our diversity. The knowledge of marginalized communities is the knowledge of the majority of the world. Yet most online public knowledge still skews towards white, male, and global North knowledge. It is a hidden crisis of our times.
Our plan: We’ll host a conference in Cape Town, South Africa – co-located with Wikimania, an annual conference for Wikipedians – to build more awareness, allies, and joint action plans around this hidden crisis. We will convene marginalized community organizers, technologists, academics, artists, and Wikimedians in the first conference of its kind.
The change we hope to create: With these newly created alliances and networks, we will work together towards more diversity and inclusion in internet design, architecture, content, and experience. We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.
What we need: $150,000
And many generous individual donors like you!