Centre for Internet & Society

Wikipedia’s founder member Erik Möller says their principle is not to decide the map of India, but to explain that there is a controversy.

This article was published in Bangalore Mirror on November 15, 2012.

Erik Möller, vice-president engineering and product development, Wikimedia Foundation, is one of the founder members of Wikipedia, along with Jimmy Wales, since it started in 2001. Möller was in Bangalore over the weekend to speak at a technical seminar at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a local chapter of Wikimedia. He spoke about India’s role in the growth of Wikipedia not just in the sub-continent, but globally.

BM: How significant is India in the Wikipedia movement?
Very significant and growing. I don’t have the data on exact number of editors based in India. However currently, 2.4 per cent of all Wikipedia edits globally are made from India. As a comparison, the UK’s is 6.5 per cent. India has overtaken Australia and (narrowly) Brazil since last year. In the 2011 fundraiser, India reached the top 10 of countries giving to the Wikimedia Foundation, with 39,000 donors from India giving the equivalent of $360,468. The 2012 fundraiser will be launched in a few days. (Interestingly, India is the only developing nation in the Top 10 contributing nations).

Does the financial support from India surprise you?

Of course not. You are a country of a billion people (laughs). I think Wikipedia appeals to a lot of cultural sensibilities, sharing of knowledge and culture. I think people here want to share.

Where does India stand in the future of Wikipedia’s roadmap?

India was identified as one of three global priority areas in our 2010-15 strategic plan (alongside Brazil and Arabic language countries). While there are active Wikipedia communities in many Asian countries, India continues to be the Foundation’s main focus area in (non-Arabic) Asia through the “Access To Knowledge (A2K)” programme conducted by CIS as our local partner, funded via a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation.

From the standpoint of freedom to internet access, what do you think of Indian laws?
Depending on your interpretation, specific laws in India could be challenging, particularly in areas of mapping (geographically). We are concerned about those things, but have to run with it. We consider ourselves specifically (governed by) US laws from where we are legally published. But then, Wiki is not an advocacy organisation that goes around telling people which politician to vote for. As Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, it’s very important all people become educated on the issues. It’s not up to us to decide what’s the correct map of India, of course, but it is up to us to explain there is a controversy.

Are you constantly bombarded with litigation world over?
Surprisingly not.

What are the big developments happening in Wikipedia?
We are currently running two pilot projects – Wikidata and Wikivoyage. For example, today you can find out the GDP of each country on Wikipedia but cannot query and arrange countries by GDP size. Wikidata will allow you to do that. Similarly, Wikivoyage will provide matter-of-fact information on local sites that are of interest to travellers.