Verksamhetsberättelse 2020/Story: Wikipedia as platform for vital information in times of crises

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2020

In this Story we are focusing on how we have tried to develop a method for major global content partners to share their expertise and content on Wikipedia about topics that are read during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. During the year we have worked both with involving and engaging experts and volunteers, and with uploads of key infographics.

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As a result of our partnership with UNFPA, participants in the Wikiproject COVID-19 could improve Wikipedia with up-to-date and trustworthy information.
An infographic on avoiding infection shared by the Swedish Public Agency under an open license. Northern Sami is one of Sweden’s official minority languages.

For years, we have planned for and worked on how to use Wikipedia for dissemination of vital information in crises. We know that Wikipedia is used as the go-to place when events are unfolding, and have pondered how we can support the volunteer community to improve the content as efficiently as possible through support from expert organizations and content partnerships.

The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated and accelerated this project, as well as the need. Through collaborations with two expert agencies, we identified innovative ways of spreading vital and correct information on Wikipedia during the pandemic.

The first collaboration was a result of an ongoing conversation around partnerships, with UNFPA (the UN Population Fund). We finalized a partnership around global campaigns and licensing of material, but both of us acknowledged the possibility and need of doing a short term effort during the pandemic. To that end UNFPA’s technical experts collated references and key messages with the latest research around the effects of the pandemic on women, maternal health, youth, elderly and the other areas they are monitoring. We initiated an editathon and a campaign to make use of these messages. The articles in which these messages were inserted surpassed a million views during the year. In tandem with this work, we also conceptualized the model through which we worked, meaning that the work can be repeated with other agencies and partners, in this or in other crises.

The other collaboration was based on mere chance. The Swedish Public Health Agency (PHA) made PDFs and graphics with easily understood information around how to protect oneself and others from the pandemic; graphics that were translated into some 20 different languages. Knowing that many people turn to Wikipedia for information, we reached out to the PHA and asked whether the texts could be made available under a free license, so that we could include them in the relevant Wikipedia articles. The agency accepted, licensed the material freely, and the community made use of them on Wikipedia. By the end of the year, the articles in which the graphics and rasters made from the PDFs had been inserted had had more than 25,000,000 views.

Through the first collaboration, we have started to develop and learn how to best work with expert agencies in order to make sure that the information on Wikipedia on essential topics in times of crises is up to date and correct. This is an area where we believe that there are much more to be done. We also learned how long-term partnerships can be used also in the short term, when new events quickly unfolds and where accurate and up-to-date information is of utmost importance.

The second collaboration taught us the potentiality of quickly initiating conversations around CC licenses with new partners at times when the benefit is very high both for the owner of the material, for our platforms, and for the users and readers in society.