At Wiki Education, we spend a lot of time working to make Wikipedia and Wikidata more representative of the world we live in. Many of our courses focus on content gaps about historically marginalized communities, so that our programs and the greater Wikipedia editing community can systematically tackle them at scale. Unfortunately, there have been few tools to assist in addressing this issue at scale – until now. Thanks to the Nielsen Foundation’s generous support through their 2022 Data for Good grants program, we are designing a portal focused on equity that will identify representation gaps on Wikipedia and Wikidata, and allow us to use our courses to help close them.
The instant availability of knowledge on your personal devices has revolutionized how we learn about the world around us. When you ask Google about a topic or pose a question to a virtual assistant like Alexa, the answer you get will likely come from Wikidata. That makes the open data repository an essential resource that we must make sure reflects the fullness of human knowledge. Limited coverage on Wikipedia and Wikidata of historically excluded populations and notable women has not reflected their historical importance. One of the potential causes of these gaps is that the majority of Wikipedia’s editing community are white and male. Wiki Education is committed to addressing these opportunities for growth and expanding both the editing population and coverage of historically marginalized communities on Wikidata and beyond.
Currently, groups of Wikipedia editors surface content gaps on Wikipedia manually, often through online common spaces called WikiProjects. We are inspired by the massive success of Women in Red, a WikiProject focused on expanding and adding articles about women on Wikipedia. Thanks to dedicated volunteer editors, the number of biographies about women has increased from 15% of all Wikipedia biographies to 19% since October 2014. Considering that there are almost 2 million biographies today on the English Wikipedia, 4% is quite a jump. While more progress needs to be made, the project has helped add much-needed visibility and credibility to women’s accomplishments that will inspire generations of leaders.
Using Wikidata in concert with Wikipedia provides a place to build a tool that can scale this important work further. Using Women in Red as a model, our online portal will allow the Wikipedia community to use information queried from Wikidata to tackle the gaps in knowledge in an organized way. Women in Red relies heavily on Wikidata queries to generate lists of women who do not yet have Wikipedia articles. With this approach, we will scope the queries to different demographics and create new lists of articles that do not exist on Wikipedia. We will leverage our portal to provide insights into the types of courses that we offer in our Scholars & Scientists Program.
We will also add this portal to the “Finding your article” training module on our Dashboard’s library of resources for student editors participating in our Wikipedia Student Program. This tool would guide students to edit Wikipedia articles that need the greatest amount of attention. We believe that the broad community who looks to Wiki Education for tools and resources will also benefit from this portal for their own initiatives and across languages.
Wiki Education’s new transformative portal will deepen the engagement of new and current program participants by empowering them to quickly assess the topics and communities most in need of improvement and representation on Wikipedia.
At the same time, we want to acknowledge that data about the personal identity of prominent figures is extremely sensitive and personal. We want everyone to know that in order for this kind of data to exist on Wikipedia, it must have a reliable source backing up that fact. It’s our hope that this portal will help encourage better sourcing, correcting errors, and a better ability to identify inaccurate or potentially harmful data from winding up (and staying) on Wikidata and Wikipedia.
Throughout this year, I’ll be developing a working prototype of the online portal and gathering feedback from the Wikimedia community. I’ll use Wikidata to test the functionality of the portal and add demographic properties that can be selected by Wikipedia editors to identify gaps in coverage of historically marginalized communities. We’re excited to leverage this portal to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of underrepresented groups and help volunteers provide millions of readers with more equitable information.