Open the Knowledge

Promoting radical knowledge equity

“Open the Knowledge” is our call to everyone to promote radical knowledge equity, creating a living record of history, stories, and contexts for and by all people. Biases, under-representation, and inequities in our movement continue to close Wikimedia projects to much of the world’s people and knowledge. 

Simply put: we cannot achieve the sum of all human knowledge without opening our resources, projects, and work to all human beings. 

We are inviting all who support our mission and participate in our movement to help open the knowledge — making it more diverse, more equitable, accessible and inclusive. Because, when we open the knowledge, we open up its power, open the possibilities, and open ourselves as a movement to a world that changes every day.  We make knowledge equity a reality.

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Help us achieve knowledge equity

The Wikimedia vision is a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. 

Yet, Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects do not currently reflect the world’s diversity. Specifically, our projects are largely missing the histories, stories, and contexts of: women and nonbinary people, those within the LGBTQI+ community, people with disabilities, and those within the global majority including Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. (See research about gaps in representation on Wikimedia projects.)  

To achieve our vision, we need to realize knowledge equity, a central pillar of the Wikimedia movement’s 2030 strategy. Knowledge equity calls us to welcome people from every background. It calls us to actively remove social, political, and technical barriers that prevent people from both accessing and contributing to free knowledge.  It calls us to make Wikipedia and its companion free knowledge projects more welcoming and representative of communities that have been overlooked and oppressed by systems of power and privilege.

Knowledge equity is imperative for our movement to thrive, and it is our collective priority to achieve it. There is still much work to do, and we acknowledge that big gaps still exist. The Wikimedia movement is however taking important steps to improve the diversity of contributors and content on Wikimedia projects. We invite you to learn about this work, get involved, and push it forward.

Support current work

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From content drives and grantmaking, to inclusive product design and research, there are several ways we are working to advance knowledge equity that you can help support and amplify.

Community content campaigns

Every year, dozens of volunteer- and partner-led campaigns take place around the world to close cultural content gaps, improve representation, and engage new people on Wikimedia projects.

For example, Women in Red, Art+Feminism, WikiGap and #VisibleWikiWomen work to strengthen coverage by and about women on Wikimedia projects, often with an emphasis on women who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Groups such as Black Lunch Table and AfroCrowd focus on adding knowledge about Black history and people of African descent to our projects. Wiki Loves Pride is a global campaign to expand and improve LGBTQI+ content online. The AfroCine project, Africa Wiki Challenge, and Wiki Loves Africa photography campaign aim to increase information on our projects from African countries.

The Wiki Loves Monuments campaign and Wiki World Heritage User Group work toward globally representative documentation of the world’s built heritage. Initiatives such as the Arctic Knot Wikimedia Language Conference, Wikitongues, and WikiLovesFolklore leverage Wikimedia projects to promote and preserve Indigenous languages and cultures.

These groups are just some of many working to improve diversity and participation across the Wikimedia ecosystem. Join them!

Foundation programs and partnerships

The Wikimedia Foundation works with volunteer communities and partners to enable the use of Wikimedia projects for free global learning and the sharing of cultural heritage. It also conducts research around knowledge gaps. 

Wikimedia in Education promotes equity in education by expanding access to linguistically and culturally relevant open educational resources, as well as providing opportunities for teachers and students to participate in knowledge production.  In 2020, the Foundation joined UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, allowing us to discover new ways to support education for people and communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Reading Wikipedia in the Classroom program, co-created with Wikimedia communities underrepresented in our projects, trains educators to use Wikimedia projects to develop information literacy skills. 

Separately, the Foundation supports community collaborations with libraries and cultural institutions around the world, such as the Museu Paulista in Brazil and the Smithsonian Institution in the US, helping to share collections previously held behind closed doors and surface marginalized histories. Our collaboration with the African Library & Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA) has spurred contributions to Wikimedia projects by hundreds of librarians and information professionals across Africa, including through our #1Lib1Ref (One Librarian, One Reference) information quality campaign.

The Foundation is also working on a set of research initiatives to study and address knowledge gaps. This includes the Knowledge Gaps Index, a tool to measure and track our progress towards knowledge equity. 

Grantmaking 

The Wikimedia Foundation supports volunteer and partner efforts to promote knowledge equity through a range of funding programs. Our grantmaking strategy was developed in collaboration with our volunteer community and is centered on decentralized decision-making, working with regional committees, and reaching underrepresented communities.

Additionally, the Foundation’s Equity Fund is a $4.5 million fund to support organizations that are expanding knowledge equity by addressing structural inequalities relating to racial equity around the world. Through the fund, the Foundation will build a robust ecosystem of institutional partners working at the intersection of free knowledge, anti-racism, and racial justice. The inaugural group of grantees were announced in September 2021.

Media collaborations 

Many of our projects, including Wikipedia, rely on secondary sources for their content. Due to inequities across the information landscape — the universe of resources we turn to when we are looking for knowledge —  traditionally overlooked people and groups receive less attention from media, academics and other researchers, making it more difficult to meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria. Much of the world’s history has been written about men, often from a Western viewpoint. A rich ecosystem of secondary sources  is required to create and improve content.

For example, women are less than a quarter of the people heard; read about; or seen in newspaper, television, and radio news. This lack of media coverage results in a lack of source material for Wikipedia contributors to create or improve articles about women.

The Foundation leads campaigns, such as Project Rewrite, and hosts events with partners within the wider media and information landscape to raise awareness of the need for reliable secondary sources to make our projects more reflective of our world.

Product design 

Our movement is rooted in the original promise of the internet to catalyze ideas and connect people across geographies, languages, and experiences. We believe in technology for good, decolonizing the internet, and developing products and new features that ensure everyone can participate meaningfully with our projects.

We aim for our interfaces to be accessible by design, helping users overcome any barriers that may exist between them and the knowledge our projects provide. These barriers could include disability, limited digital access, or low levels of technical expertise, to name a few.

At the moment, we are working to update Wikipedia’s interface to be more inclusive of and accessible to internet users today. Our Inuka team delivers compelling experiences to Wikipedia readers in emerging markets, driving increased access to and adoption of Wikipedia in areas where internet use is rapidly growing. New resources are helping newcomers overcome technical, conceptual, and cultural challenges they often experience when editing Wikipedia. Additionally, our content translation tool simplifies translating Wikipedia articles into different languages, helping to reduce our knowledge gap. 

Universal Code of Conduct 

To ensure participation from new and diverse groups on Wikimedia projects, we must ensure a welcoming environment. Women, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, as well as LGBTQ+ people often face increased scrutiny, pressure or outright harassment on our projects. To address this issue, a Universal Code of Conduct was launched in February 2021 as a step towards rectifying the scrutiny, pressure, or harassment faced by many contributors on our platforms.

The Code was crafted through the contributions of Wikimedia community members around the world, in order to create a more welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for all contributors and a more open and thriving movement for free knowledge. It elevates expectations for contributor behavior; details what exactly constitutes online harassment; and addresses the responsibility of trust and care required from contributors to our projects.

Change the stats

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Wikipedia is powered by humans, so it is vulnerable to human biases. It is also a reflection and manifestation of structural and historical inequalities in opportunity and representation. We believe one of the first steps in overcoming these challenges is through understanding the problems, which is why we are developing a Knowledge Gaps Index. We embrace and encourage more research and data around Wikimedia projects, especially as it relates to knowledge equity.

Who is represented on Wikimedia projects?

  • As of August 2021, only 18.13% of content in all Wikimedia projects, including biographies on Wikipedia, are about women. On English Wikipedia specifically, 19.04% of biographies are about women. (Humaniki, 2021) 
  • There are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than most countries in Africa, and many in Latin America and Asia. Africa has almost twice the population of Europe, and yet only 15 percent the number of articles. (Oxford Internet Institute, 2018)

Who is reading Wikimedia projects?

  • Across regions, men tend to read Wikipedia more often than women. Though awareness and usage of Wikipedia are high for both men and women in many regions of the world, based on reader surveys we estimate that one-third (33 percent) of Wikipedia readers over the age of 18 on any given day are women. (Characterizing Wikipedia Reader Behavior, 2019)
  • The same survey showed that men on average also read more articles when they visit Wikipedia than women. As such, many of the top-read articles on Wikipedia draw almost exclusively readers who are men. (Global gender differences in Wikipedia readership, 2020)

Who is contributing to Wikimedia projects?

  • Wikimedia contributors are 87% male. Almost half live in Europe and one-fifth in Northern America, as compared to 9.7% and 4.8% of the global population. (Community Insights Report, 2020)
  • Fewer than 1% of Wikipedia’s editor base in the U.S. identify as Black or African American. (Community Insights Report, 2020)
  • Although women were still markedly underrepresented among contributors, there was a modest increase in women contributors between 2019 (11.5%) and 2020 (15.0%). (Community Insights Report, 2020)
  • Only 1.5% of Wikipedia editors are based in Africa, although people in Africa comprise 17% of the world’s population. (Community Insights Report, 2020)
  • More men than women have tried to edit Wikipedia at least once. Across Wikipedia users in all six of the regions surveyed (the United States, Mexico, Egypt, Nigeria, Germany, and India), 27 percent of male respondents had edited Wikipedia at least once, while only 21 percent of female respondents had. (Women and Wikipedia survey, 2019)

What barriers exist and are experienced on Wikimedia projects? 

How welcoming are Wikimedia projects? 

  • Most newcomers feel empowered to contribute to Wikimedia platforms, though some groups — such as those who identify as women, live in Eastern Asia, or who are not fluent in English — find acclimating to these social and technical spaces more difficult. (Community Insights Report, 2020)
  • Feminist interventions designed to counteract digital knowledge inequality are successful at adding content about women that would otherwise be missing, but they are less successful at addressing structural biases that limit the visibility of that content. (The Gender Divide in Wikipedia, 2021)
  • In 2015, 38% of survey respondents shared they had been harassed on Wikimedia projects, and 51% reported witnessing others being harassed. (Harassment survey, 2015) 

Help us unlock the world’s knowledge.

As a nonprofit, Wikipedia and our related free knowledge projects are powered primarily through donations.

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