Citizen-participation projects like the Wikimedia projects are a novel innovation of our times. What was derided as an unrealistic idea in early 2000s made itself a huge success, thanks to the millions of people around the world who shared their time, effort, and work for the greater good, as enshrined in the words of Jimmy Wales, “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing.”
In addition building an encyclopedia in their language, for many languages and communities, Wikimedia projects are also the living archives regarding their language, culture and social measures. How our projects welcome and work with them will shape the future of their internet.
People are willing and eager to participate in citizen participation efforts from the sentiment that they are doing something worthwhile for humanity. Whether it is proof-editing (Distributed Proofreaders), or classifying galaxies (Galaxy Zoo - Zooniverse), or collecting biodiversity-related information (eBird). This is bound to expand in the future to new forms of cooperation, new technologies, new kinds of activity, and new ways of rewarding contributors.
What is important as we go on are what are the rights of contributors? What facilities, what information, what kinds of protection should they be provided? What are the means of encouragement, reward, ensuring safe and open spaces, what code of conduct should be enforced and how.
It is here that Wikimedia’s significance comes through because the stance and positions Wikimedia takes in the future, the actions it does for the people who are stakeholders in the times to come, that will serve as a model for the citizen projects of the future.
As of now, quite frankly, there is more lip service than action in this regard. All the intellectual property on the Wikimedia projects are created by unpaid volunteer editors. However, the rights and privileges of the editor are sorely lacking. For example, if an editor were to be legally prosecuted by his country’s laws for his contributions, the Foundation provides no legal support as a matter of right. That is, as of now, the WMF is happy to benefit from that person’s labour, but does not recognise any right of that editor to support from them in this regard. That has to change.
The future of internet is not a monochromatic image of networks and high speed downloads. The future of internet for Dagbani will be very different from the idea of future of internet for Tulu, as it would be different for the future for Germany. Hence reflection around understanding the 'future' will be necessary, and will require engagement between WMF and Communities to create a common vision to ensure that the future is good.
We need to as a community of citizen-participation need to think and debate on these issues, because the world is becoming more complex as time passes, and the Wikimedia movement’s policies and practices will be used as a reference point or benchmark in the future.
From my side, if elected to the Board of Trustees, I promise to push for this dialogue and to progress this as much as possible.