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WikiGap enhances women’s representation in digital technology

Juliana Harsianti

The Jakarta Post

Bandung, West Java  /  Mon, March 23, 2020  /  02:55 pm
WikiGap enhances women’s representation in digital technology

Head of the class: Ivonne Kristiani, deputy chairperson of Wikimedia Indonesia, gives an explanation about WikiGap. (-/Juliana Harsianti)

A collective movement aims to overcome the under-representation of women inside Wikimedia.

At Eduplex, a co-working space in Bandung, participants signed the attendance list and had a coffee break, some already dressed in light gray T-shirts bearing the word “WikiGap”.

The participants, all women, were also ready with laptops on their tables.

In recent years, Wikimedia has been popular as an open and free window of knowledge offering almost everything, ranging from places, countries to public figures. Its presence has been bringing about a change in scientific openness in the cyber world. Yet Wikimedia still has a problem of representation.

“Wikimedia editors and writers are still dominated by males,” said Ivonne Kristiani, deputy chairperson of Wikimedia Indonesia, recently.

For example, in Wikipedia – a free online encyclopedia from Wikimedia – nine out of 10 of its editors are males. The encyclopedia also features a lot more stories about male figures, thus creating imbalance between the presence of male and female luminaries in itself. Only 20 percent of the content in Wikipedia is about women so that as they are being translated into various languages, the representation of female luminaries becomes increasingly obscured.

This condition has prompted the Foreign Ministry of Sweden to invite Wikipedia to launch WikiGap, a program that aims at encouraging many women in different parts of the world to write, edit and translate diverse articles about female figures.

“This program serves as an opportunity for Wikipedia to appeal for women’s contributions,” said Ivonne at the recent Indonesia Internet Governance Forum.

In Indonesia, the program is under cooperation between the Swedish Embassy in Jakarta and Wikipedia Indonesia and its branches all over the country.

Indonesia first joined the program in 2018, held in Yogyakarta and Padang. In 2019, it took place in Bandung at the Feminist Festival. According to Ivonne, it’s part of WikiGap Global held in more than 30 countries.

Ivonne hopes the program will attract many more women to participate in writing, editing and translating work in Wikipedia Indonesia or Wikipedia in the existing regional languages.

“As the program is specially meant for women, we hope the feeling of reluctance to join Wikipedia sessions can be dispelled,” she said.

Participants are not supposed to have the skills of writing, editing or translating articles in Wikipeda.

Brief training will be provided in the initial phase of Wikigap. In addition, experienced volunteers will also help them in the process. Participants have to choose articles about female figures or other things related to women. A number of stories are also offered to be edited, improved and translated.

Ivonne said since it was first held in 2018, Wikigap had drawn participants from various circles.

“Some of them are indeed interested in contributing to Wikipedia but they still have no idea about how to join the program,” said Ivonne.

Others are even more attracted as WikiGap is a special forum for women to increase the number of articles about women. There are those even from other cities taking part in WikiGap.

Mingle: Participants discuss during a recent Wikigap session in Bandung, west Java.Mingle: Participants discuss during a recent Wikigap session in Bandung, west Java. (-/Juliana Harsianti)

Imas, for instance, has come from Cianjur to Bandung to join WikiGap. The financial officer is seeking ways to contribute as a volunteer. She described Wikipedia as a suitable place to fulfill her aspirations for writing and translating stories on a digital platform as it could be done from anywhere and anytime as long as there was internet. 

In the same tone, Rohita and Tiara, English graduates from the Indonesian Education University in Bandung, have chosen to translate articles in English into Indonesian and Sundanese. “We want articles about women to be available not only in Indonesian but also in Sundanese,” said Rohita, who works as an English teacher.

Tiara, who is finishing her master’s thesis, said she was interested in digital technology but lacked familiarity with technical matters. In his view, Wikipedia is now the answer.

“Furthermore, there’s now special attention to enrich the open knowledge concerning women’s affairs,” noted Tiara.

Wikigap’s results have been amazing.

From 2018 to 2019 alone, the number of Wikipedia articles related to women increased by 35,000 and female volunteers by 2,500 throughout the world.

Ivonne said more effort would still be needed to attract women to become volunteers, not only limited to WikiGap. But she indicated that many women would like to hold WikiGap sessions in various events for women’s empowerment, like the recent Feminist Festival.

The digital technology has actually introduced change and improvement in different fields of life. However, there have been some impediments so that such facilities cannot be enjoyed by many circles. One of the digital divides involves gender, connected with various matters that render women deprived of the same opportunity enjoyed by men to participate in the digital pursuit.

Laser focused: A participant is glued to her laptop during a recent Wikigap session in Bandung, west Java.Laser focused: A participant is glued to her laptop during a recent Wikigap session in Bandung, west Java. (-/Juliana Harsianti)

Gender-based digital inclusion is becoming an even more urgent matter.

“The more we – women – act and work together, the more our presence will be taken into account, in the digital world as well as in daily life,” added Ivonne.

 

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