During its inception, the internet was seen as a vital instrument for democracy and equality. In 2020, amidst a global pandemic and racial inequalities that are very much still alive, it is time to ask: Whose stories are told and who is telling these stories on the internet? And how do Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms and Bots shape our view of the world and perpetuate racisms? This is where the new Goethe-Institut project “Decolonise The Internet”, in collaboration with Wikimedia SA, sees its core.
The project addresses issues of artificial intelligence, machine learning, the impact of algorithms and whether, to what extent and how the internet needs to and can be decolonised.
In many African countries, information, myths, stories and traditional knowledge are passed on orally. In writing, in libraries, archives and through the internet, more and more information is available to more and more people in less and less time. At the same time, in many African countries, there is an information system based on oral information, a second world of non-written knowledge that follows its own rules and knows its own art forms.
With Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia is available to all people worldwide, inviting them to document and actively participate in the world's knowledge. Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website in the world. However, due to relevance criteria and citation rules, as well as the dominance of white male authors from the "Western" world, it can be difficult for African knowledge to find its way into Wikipedia, especially if the articles are written in one of the colonial languages. Around 75% of the online community lives in the Global South, but only 20% of active online knowledge is created in the Global South. Therefore, we are challenging you to take up the important task of adding knowledge to the Wikipedia - knowledge that is relevant to YOU. We particularly encourage you to write in local languages apart from English to increase the amount of articles found in these languages!
The project goal are:
To raise awareness of the impact of algorithms on our daily lives,
To find answers to the question to what extent algorithms and artificial intelligence normalise racism and what we can do about it,
To attract and train primarily female Wikipedians to work on Wikipedia,
To create as many articles as possible about African heroines and female role models,
To create articles mainly in African languages and to do translations,
To use WikiData and WikiCommons for oral citations.
Following work on decolonisation at Wikimania in Cape Town and in close collaboration with Wikipedia groups in various countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Goethe-Institut would like to work in close partnership with various associations and institutions on questions such as:
How knowledge about the African continent can better enter Wikipedia and the Internet,
How algorithms influence our view of the world,
How civil rights can be defended in the digital space.
These questions will be addressed in different and innovative formats, such as barcamps / unconferences, editathons, edit jams, editing and translation competitions, hackathons, discussion events and artistic interventions.
When and Where?
Decolonise The Internet workshops were held throughout 2020, between 1st January and 31st December as a project of excellence. The project itself lives on a regional project. All of Africa has heard the call to action, with participating institutes from all over the continent, including but not limited to: South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Namibia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Kenya.
While it is all well and good to spring into action, safety is still very important. Due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns experienced by all participating countries, the planned physical events could not take place. The edit-a-thons and editing competitions were moved to the digital space. Unfortunately, this does mean that there is no visual and audio material to share with you all.
But watch this space! At the moment, six podcasts are in the making and online panel discussions are planned for the coming year.
Our Esteemed Panel of Experts
Bobby Shabangu from Wikimedia SA
Anasuya Sengupta from Whose Knowledge
Various others in each of the participating countries
The Goethe-Institut’s new programme “Decolonise the Internet” focuses on bridging the unequal representation of voices from the Global South on the internet and aims to increase awareness on how AI and algorhythms might perpetuate racisms. The projects takes place in ten different countries in sub-Saharan Africa and has different formats, such as edit-a-thons, podcasts and texts. In South Africa, the Goethe-Instiut has partnered with the WikimediaZA Foundation and Whose Knowledge.
You may also find interesting
The new edition of “das goethe” with the theme “Digital Civil Society” will be issued on 16 January. On The Latest at Goethe, journalist Ina Holev explains how colonisation continues in the digital space.
Equality in the Digital Age
An interview with Nanjira Sambuli: The digital equality advocate spells out the steps necessary for bridging the knowledge gap in the digital age.