Since 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation has highlighted the exceptional achievements of inspirational community members with its annual Wikimedian of the Year award. The 2021 awards, announced at the virtual Wikimania 2021 conference, were an expansion from years prior, acknowledging for the first time not only our singular Wikimedian of the Year, but a broader array of major contributors to the Wikimedia movement.
Alaa Najjar, Levant region | 2021 Wikimedian of the Year
Active in a variety of areas across the Wikimedia movement since 2014, Alaa is a Board member of Wikimedians of the Levant, an editorial board member of WikiJournal of Medicine, and a member of the Wikimedia Stewards User Group and the Arabic Wikipedia social networking team. Alaa is a busy medical practitioner, and when he’s not at work, he spends his time creating and improving health-related information on Wikipedia. He has made more than 170,000 edits to Arabic Wikipedia, and more than 472,000 edits across all Wikimedia projects. He is a frequent contributor to WikiProject Medicine, and he spearheaded a COVID-19 content team for Arabic Wikipedia that included the work of nearly 100 editors. Together, they combatted medical misinformation with timely, scientifically sound, and thoroughly referenced information throughout the ongoing global pandemic.
“Most of the participants in the project in Arabic Wikipedia belong to the medical sector, which means more accurate and reliable Wikipedia content. We managed to produce 46,000 medical articles, and the role of the project has become very prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lodewijk Gelauff, U.S.A. | 20th Year Honouree
The Wikipedia 20th Year Honouree award spotlighted a contributor who has played a significant role in growing the site’s global community since its early years. Recipient of this milestone award, Lodewijk is an innovator, a community organizer, and a member of the Wikimedia movement since 2005. The Dutch-born Stanford University Ph.D. candidate is one of the initiators of Wiki Loves Monuments, an annual photo contest highlighting the world’s historic architectural heritage. Since it began in 2010, Wiki Loves Monuments has grown into the largest photography competition in the world, with 60,000+ participants submitting more than 1.7 million pictures of over 1.5 million monuments across Wikimedia sites.
“The majority of participants in our national competitions never contributed to any of our projects before. For some, this is their first encounter with the free knowledge movement, and maybe the first time they realize that if they contribute something, it can actually change Wikipedia, that website that they use so frequently…. Nothing is as encouraging as when you see someone’s face light up when they realize that yes, they are really invited to participate, to contribute.”
Carma “Citra” Citrawati, Indonesia | Newcomer of the Year
Established last year, Wikimedia’s Newcomer of the Year award recognizes Wikimedians who make significant contributions in their initial one or two years of involvement. The award’s first recipient, Citra is a Balinese literarian who joined the movement in 2019 to help build WikiPustaka, a library of Balinese language sources. Citra is an enthusiastic participant in Wikimedia Indonesia’s online community and an organizer of Densapar, Bali-area Wikimedians. Through her work with the Balinese WikiLontar project, she has helped catalog more than 600 Balinese palm leaf manuscripts on Wikimedia Commons for anyone to freely use—which will help us achieve the goal of growing underrepresented language content across Wikimedia projects.
“The most interesting part of contributing on Wikimedia is meeting different kinds of people who make great contributions to my local language. Wikimedia is a good place not only for free knowledge, but also to meet people who are passionate about language.”
Jay Prakash, India | Tech Innovator
The Wikimedia movement includes many Indian language communities that work to create and share valuable knowledge in dozens of local languages. Wikimedian Jay Prakash is invaluable as a provider of technical support to these communities, fixing bugs, building new tools, and spearheading technical outreach in Indic languages. Along with establishing and managing Indic-TechCom, a gathering of Indic-language technical volunteers, Jay has contributed over 20,000 edits to Wikipedia and is a lead developer for MediaWiki, the software underpinning all of the Wikimedia projects.
“Love, appreciation, and community health are the core of Wikimedia projects. I contribute to many free and open-source software (FOSS) and programmes, but the appreciation and respect I receive in the Wikimedia community is unmatchable.”
Ananya Mondal, India | Rich Media award winner
Known as the “Butterfly Wikimedian,” Ananya started the Wiki Loves Butterfly project in 2016 after realizing that there was no “butterfly” article on her native Bengali Wikipedia. Since then, she has led four editions of the campaign, which aims to add more information and images about butterfly species, particularly those of the eastern and northeastern parts of India, on Wikimedia projects. The campaign has resulted in over 3,000 images being added to Wikimedia Commons so far, capturing 428 different butterfly species and subspecies and expanding on non-text content across Wikimedia projects for an enriched user experience.
“The main motivation here is the free knowledge pattern and knowledge sharing—a grand, noble purpose that our celebrated Wikimedia movement is ushering in human society.”
Christopher Seiwald, U.S.A. | Wikimedia Endowment Benefactor
Christopher shares that after founding Perforce Software in 1995, the company greatly benefited from open-source content. Motivated to give back to providers of this invaluable resource, Perforce in 2012 would become a corporate donor to Wikimedia. Christopher described Wikimedia’s undertakings at the time as “a tool, but not yet a movement,” the broad benefits of which had personally resonated with him. Having watched the growth and refinement of Wikimedia’s projects over the past two decades—and having witnessed the impact of independent, reliable, accessible, and no-cost knowledge on people around the world—Christopher now considers himself a full-fledged champion of free information… or, as he more precisely puts it, “freedom of information.” He sees Wikimedia as a chief agent in this freedom, and his continuing personal financial support is evidence of his appreciation.
“I see Wikimedia as the single largest counterweight to the dis/mis/un-information that plagues our modern digital lives. The best answers are on Wikipedia.”
“(Wikipedia) is the 21st-century Library of Alexandria. We don’t really stop and think about how crazy it is that we have detailed, high-quality, multi-page articles about anything you can think of in over 300 languages. Wikipedia has 4 billion words across 6 million articles and has collectively undergone about 1 billion edits. There’s simply nothing else like it.”
-Julian Deville, data integration specialist and Wikimedia donor
“The continued existence of Wikipedia is one of the reasons I have some optimism for the human race still. I very much hope that Wikipedia outlives me by centuries.”