Strategy Salon in Conakry reflects about the future of the Wikimedia movement
By Diane Ranville
In Guinea, the Wikimedia community is just starting out. Internet access is uncertain, computer equipment is rare, few people even know that Wikipedia is editable… Despite these challenges, a small community of committed volunteers has developed in the country in order to enrich the encyclopedia’s articles about Guinea-Conakry, until it finally got recognized as “User Group” by the Wikimedia Foundation in november 2018.
Aboubacar Keita, president of Wikimedia Guinea during the National Strategy Salon in Conakry on 23 June 2019. Picture by Aboubacarkhoraa, CC-BY-SA 4.0.
Now officialy affiliated, Wikimedians from Guinea have been invited to join in strategic discussions inside the Wikimedia Movement. The purpose of these discussions? Answering this truly ambitious question: how can we reach our ideal of universal sharing of human knowledge?
“Knowledge equity” has been defined by the Wikimedian community as one of two main goals to reach by 2030. What does it mean exactly? In short, that we want social inequalities to have as little influence as possible on access and contribution to our projects.
This goal takes on its full meaning in the Guinean context. Here, contributing to Wikipedia is a real privilege. Even among the educated population, few people own a computer. “And contributing on a phone is complicated. You really need to be an enthusiast!” says Aboubacar Keita, student in sociology and president of Wikimedia Guinea.
Plus, few people know that Wikimedia projects are collaborative. Aboubacar Keita explains: “I often ask students or university teachers if they know they can modify and improve Wikipedia. They say “No, it that possible??” When I say yes, they are immediately interested in learning.” But Conakry has little resources, which doesn’t allow them to feed this nascent interest. “If we are not able to offer trainings or workshops, these persons will just forget the idea of contributing.”
National Strategy Salon in Conakry
This is the context in which Guinea-Conakry’s National Strategy Salon
Participants at the National Strategy Salon of Wikimedia Guinea. Picture by Aboubacarkhoraa, CC-BY-SA 4.0.
With financial support from the Wikimedia Foundation, this event gathered fourteen volunteers in order to reflect about two thematic areas: “Roles and responsibilities in the Wikimedia Movement” and “Capacity Building”.
These themes were chosen by the group and are representative of local concerns. Guineans especially underlined the lack of stable organizations in Africa: indeed, there is only one Chapter on the whole continent, only one to benefit from annual funding. They would like to see this imbalance corrected by 2030.
Other claims stand out from their report, such as support for training local trainers, or regular funding in order to be able to have a venue with computer equipment and a decent internet access.
A second salon for youth
“The event was a success”, says Aboubacar Keita. “Everyone could share their thoughts freely, and several of our members had the opportunity to better understand how the Wikimedia Movement works.” Only drawback, “equal gender participation is complicated to obtain” in a country where gender inequalities are deep rooted in society. But two women could anyway join the group, out of fourteen participants.
Group picture at the National Strategy Salon of Guinea-Conakry. Image by Aboubacarkhoraa, CC-BY-SA 4.0.
The leader of the group is otherwise very happy to have shared this moment with other free knowledge lovers. “I liked my role as a guide and I look forward to extending the discussion beyond Conakry. That is why on July 20th we will go 300km away from the capital city, to Kamsar, for another Strategy Salon aimed at Youth.”
This second event will focus on the two same thematic areas and should allow youth’s specific concerns to stand out. More broadly, it will also be an occasion to raise awareness about free knowledge among this generation, whose representatives will be the primary stakeholders of the Wikimedia Movement by 2030.