Ivonne Kristiani, Deputy Chair of Wikimedia Indonesia, talks to NOW! Jakarta about the huge potential and obstacles that the local version of the online encyclopedia faces.

Tell us more about Wikipedia Indonesia and how it compares to other Wikipedia sites in the region but also worldwide?

The Indonesian version of Wikipedia first started in 2003 and has massively grown ever since. As per September 2017, the Indonesian Wikipedia page has around 135 million hits per month. In terms of page views, Indonesian Wikipedia is ranked 22 among all Wikipedia languages, below Vietnamese and above Serbo-Croatian. As comparison with other countries in the region, Thai ranks on 27 and Burmese on 74. When it comes to the number of articles, Indonesian Wikipedia ranked 17 across all Wikipedia languages, above Finnish, Korean, Hungarian, Vietnamese, and Thai.

Wikipedia writers help out on a voluntary basis – how do you recruit new writers?

Wikipedia does not officially “recruit” new writers. All writers are volunteers – they don’t get paid for their contribution but at the same time do not receive orders from someone else. This usually means that the theme of the articles they contribute are of their personal interests. One of our contributors, for example, loves all things automotive so he contributes a lot to this topic in Wikipedia Indonesia. Volunteers come and go at their own will and availability. So, it is more organic.

Wikimedia Indonesia as the non-profit organisation that helps growing Wikipedia raises public awareness on Wikipedia’s model and how people can contribute. We do this mainly through writing competitions like Project Ganesha, as well as writing workshops like WikiLatih. By organising these activities, we hope to make people understand why and how Wikipedia can be useful for them and vice versa, how they can be useful in contributing bits of knowledge to Wikipedia.

What exactly is Project Ganesha?

Project Ganesha is a writing competition and collaboration project between Wikimedia Indonesia and Goethe-Institut Indonesien. Our aim was to improve and increase the quality of specifically social science articles on Indonesian Wikipedia. The competition concluded in mid-December. 1431 people from across Indonesia signed up, 201 of them created an account, and 78 officially joined as participants.

Project Ganesha used gamification to attract editors and retain their editing activities. Participants had to accomplish different tasks in 10 missions, built from the easiest to hardest and designed to make participants familiarize themselves with the many features of Wikipedia.

Of course, the grand prize also attracted many people to join the competition. Goethe-Institut Indonesien as the main partner and sponsor provided a one-month scholarship for one winner to study German in Germany, and for the second and third winner a scholarship to study German in either Jakarta, Bandung, or Surabaya. Thanks to this competition, we have gained 1,110 new articles on social science, 3,800 old articles were edited, and there were 27,2 million page views in total.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

In Indonesia in particular, people are still not yet familiar with the Wikipedia model. They may use Wikipedia on a daily basis, but don’t know that it is heavily based on volunteers or that it is non-profit. Our recent survey demonstrates that many of them think that Wikipedia is just another corporate giant like Google. But we rely on individual donations and don’t run ads. And those who know the Wikipedia open model tend to see it as weakness instead of strength. The fact that anyone can edit automatically means low quality to them. Of course, Wikipedia actually has a set of rules and regulations to control the quality of the articles.

Additionally, editor retention and volunteer engagement are still a challenge for us. Volunteers come and go, only a few stay, and we still search for a better strategy to make them engage more and engage longer.

Where do you see Wikipedia Indonesia in the future? 

I’d say that in the future Wikipedia Indonesia will stay at the top list of sites people go to when looking for information on the Internet, especially on Google. And we should keep working on increasing the public awareness on Wikipedia. But we also know now that the technology is developing. With AI and other innovations on the rise, Wikipedia needs to adapt to the changing environment so it can remain a reliable and convenient source of information for the public.

Katrin Figge

Katrin Figge

Katrin Figge is a previous editor of NOW! Jakarta. An experienced writer and avid bookworm.