In Conversation with Wikipedia Creating and Sharing Knowledge through Wikipedia

Wikipedia Workshop at the library of Goethe-Institut Jakarta
Wikipedia Workshop at the library of Goethe-Institut Jakarta | © Goethe-Institut Indonesien

With the aim of further expanding the Indonesian language version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Wikimedia Indonesia and the Goethe-Institut Indonesien held a public writing competition on socio-scientific and German-related topics. The three winners were honored on February 28, 2018 during an award ceremony at the Goethe-Institut Jakarta. In an interview with co-founder of Wikimedia Indonesia, Ivan Lanin, and project manager Ivonne Kristiani, we wanted to learn more about the background and results of the project.

How would you describe the journey of Wikipedia Indonesia in recent years?

When I joined in 2006 - so two years after the initiation of Wikipedia in Indonesia-the number of articles was around 18.000. Since then we continued to grow and until now there are 420.000 articles in the Indonesian Wikipedia. One of the things I see changed from when I joined is also the quality of the articles. For example: The first article that I worked on was about tax income. In the English Wikipedia the tax income article was about two or three scrolls long, while in the Indonesian Wikipedia there was only one sentence about the topic. Now looking at Indonesian Wikipedia articles they have at least decent length.

Did the public opinion about Wikipedia Indonesia change as well?

When my son was two years old, I dreamed that when he would go to elementary school, he will find a reliable source of information in Wikipedia. Today academician look at Wikipedia and say it is not reliable. Though I really hope, that Wikipedia will be seen as a reliable source of information in the future.

What other challenges does Wikimedia face in Indonesia?

I think one of the obstacles in Indonesia is in fact that we do not have a culture of writing. We are a spoken language. Indonesian was developed as a spoken language. So to do develop the culture of writing we have to work hard to achieve that.

Mrs. Kristiani, looking at the project: Why did you choose social science as a focus for the competition?

We chose social science because we think it includes important topics like democracy, civil rights economy, sociology or history: They are all directly or indirectly imparted in our own daily life. But unfortunately articles on social science are still lacking on Wikipedia Indonesia. One of the main reasons to hold this competition was the aim to increase the number of good-quality articles in that particular field.

Pemenang Kompetisi Menulis Ganesha Pemenang Kompetisi Menulis Ganesha | © Goethe-Institut Indonesien Would you say this goal was achieved?

Yes, because there is now around 4000 articles edited, which already exsisted, and 1065 new articles created and there is a huge variety in the articles themselves. We were also surprised on how specific and special the articles are! For example, we finally have very comprehensive articles on democracy in Indonesia or the right of self-discrimination. There is even a very particular article on international trade in ancient Java. It is very special and from great value when people share their specialized knowledge via Wikipedia with the public.

Aside from your cooperation with Goethe-Institut, why did you choose Germany as the second topic for the competition?

Because Wikipedia is quite a creative medium for cultural exchange.  I think, a lot of Indonesians know about Germany but they probably only know some aspects of the country, like German football for example. Thanks to the competition more and more German related articles were published. The participants wrote about very interesting topics such as Islam in Germany or the election system in Germany. There are now also a lot of articles on public figures in Germany like politicians and celebrities. Or articles on traditional German foods like Zwiebelkuchen and Bratwurst.

In retrospect: What did you learn from this project?

We are very surprised of how many participants wanted to join the competition.  1400 participants is a huge number. But we understand that writing a Wikipedia article is not an easy task, so a lot of them abandoned some of the missions along the way. Aside of competitions, I think we need to think of other ways how to encourage people to contribute their knowledge to Wikipedia in the future. So that they don’t want to write articles in order to win a prize, but because they feel it is their responsibility to raise awareness of the value of Wikipedia as a collaborative and open knowledge platform.

Mr. Lanin, can you give us a short outlook on the future of Wikimedia in Indonesia?

What I like from the current generation is that they have more energy and more passion to develop the organization into a more professional organization. I think one of the good things is that the new generation of Wikimedia has a long-term strategic plan. In my opinion the events and the effort that they create will be in that way more structured. The basic mission is to free the knowledge, bebaskan pengetahuan. But we cannot achieve that by ourselves, we have to corporate with organizations like Goethe-Institut or educational institutions around Indonesia..

Ivonne Kristiani Ivonne Kristiani | © Goethe-Institut Indonesien Ivonne Kristiani
serves as Deputy Chair of Wikimedia Indonesia for the period of 2017-2018. She started contributing to Wikipedia when she joined a writing competition on Indonesian Wikipedia entitled “Bebaskan Pengetahuan” (“Free Your Knowledge”) and came out as the third winner.  Currently, Ivonne is also involved in managing a project called “Cipta Media Ekspresi”, which is a grant for Indonesian women to support their works in arts and culture.

Ivan Racela Lanin Ivan Racela Lanin | © Goethe-Institut Indonesien Ivan Racela Lanin
is Senior Consultant and Director of Banking, Finance & GRC at Proxsis Consulting Group, Jakarta. His current specialization is quality management and risk management systems. Ivan Lanin has been a Wikipedia author since 2006 and one of the founders of Wikimedia Indonesia in 2008. He is also known as an Indonesian language activist in social media.