WikiBilim foundation – non-profit organization based in Kazakhstan, which aimed to the development of Kazakh language content in the Internet. Unfortunately, this debate and publications followed are making doubts and concerns around our activities. I sincerely hope that the information below will shed some light on them and answer all the questions. First of all, WikiBilim’s mission goes far beyond Wikipedia itself. Our goal is to contribute to the well being of Kazakh language, it’s development had been restricted during the Soviet Union. Our attention to Wikipedia and other multi-language open knowledge platforms based on the strong believe in the power of technology and particularly in the power of the free knowledge and the Internet as a great tool to support native culture, mother tongue and modernization of the country we live in.
In order to be brief I’d like to list our partners and projects we run:
- Donors of WikiBilim in 2011-2012:
- Open Society Foundation (http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org)
- Wikimedia Foundation
- Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna (http://sk.kz/?lang=en)
- Altyn Kyran Private Charity (Kazakhstan)
- Ministry of Culture (Kazakhstan)
- Projects we run:
- Kazakh Wikipedia (goal: building strong Kazakh Wikipedia-community)
- Open Library of Kazakhstan (www.ikitap.kz, goal: making available all the books in Kazakh language free and easily accessible)
- Google Translate + Kazakh (goal: adding Kazakh language to Google Translate)
- Creative Commons Kazakhstan (goal: promoting the CC licenses in Kazakhstan)
- Bringing TED Conference in Kazakhstan (goal: translating TED talks into Kazakh and broadcasting them on national TV)
I got passionate about Wikipedia during my study at Harvard University. There is an article in The Harvard Crimson, which may provide answers to most of the questions raised in this discussion about Kazakh Wikipedia project particularly.
I’d like to clarify few very important points:
- Despite the fact that WikiBilim is supported by the government, among others, the government representatives never intervene in our projects with any conditions such as censoring or editing articles.
- Winners of the contest (by Wikibilim) mentioned above are the ones who write 100 articles on topics they like. Authors of the best article contest are chosen by the community of Kazakh WP. WikiBilim never pays for writing specific articles on certain topics.
- The money received for the projects has been spend only on community building activities, such as seminars, trainings and conferences at the university campuses all over Kazakhstan (over 100 events in two years). For instance, the biggest event we held was the first Turkic Wikimedia Conference in April 2012, Almaty (Kazakhstan), which gathered people of most Turkic nations (Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan, Bashkortostan, Saha-Yakutiya, Tatarstan).
- WikiBilim was proud to accept articles from Kazakh National Encyclopedia donated by the government, which is around 50 000 articles. We never regret accepting this kind of help from government, because thanks to that Kazakh WP received larger attention of the potential audience and the chapter got natural growth of the articles. Currently we have over 200 000 articles (2 year ago the number of articles were around 7 000). Today Kazakh Wikipedia receives over 8 million page views per month.
- Wikibilim never use Wikipedia pages to advertise anyone. The only return that the government bodies asked for was mentioning its participation in the development of Kazakh WP, which we do with gratefulness.
- WikiBilim deeply regrets that this situation caused inconvenience to our supporter and great friend Mr. Jimmy Wales. From the very beginning he has been supporting us in bringing Wikipedia culture and it’s values in Kazakh society. Thanks to his help today Kazakh WP has over 20 000 registered users who share the value of spreading free knowledge and understand what it is to be a Wikipedian.
Finally, we are really surprises to find ourselves accused for being a tool of the government. Frankly speaking we thought we are using the government to develop Kazakh Wikipedia
Here in Kazakhstan we have been criticized for being too pro-Western, if not pro-American. Some of local journalist already called WikiBilim members the CIA agents Allegedly, WikiBilim administrated by the US government in order to promote Western style democracy in Central Asia. Can you believe it?
Now, some of you guys accusing WikiBilim for making Wikipedia a tool for authoritarian regime. My point is that your perspective (WikiBilim serves authoritarian regime) sounds as nonsense as the views of the local journalists (WikiBilim serves US government). We do have our own mission – we work to develop our mother tongue and to promote our native culture, and we will be using any appropriate tool to do it as effective as it is possible.
Hope that this response made the situation clearer. Thanks for your understanding and we would be happy to provide you with more information in depth about our activities.
WikiBilim is responsible for spreading knowledge about Wikipedia. We meet people and explain what is WP, what are the rules and principles of article writing, as you know those rules are common for everybody. We do encourage people to be active editors, but we don't ask people to write articles on certain topics or to write them in certain way. We don't have list of articles that should be revised for lacking flattering remarks or criticism. If you insist we can consider creating that kind off list to make sure that there are appropriate portion of criticism in each article, but I am afraid that also would be against principles of WP. Believe or not, but we live in a country where people can go online and express their opinion. Please, bear in mind that people here just getting aquatinted with the WP and other technologies, and I do believe that at some point all the articles in Kazakh WP will meet standards you know. Wikibilim is working to make it true asap.
Kazakhstan is not perfection yet, there is no perfect country. Every country and society has its own face, one can not expect that the county with totally different culture will meet all the standards he or she consider right. As far as the article you mentioning, it is based on few sources, including National encyclopedia, Forbes magazine and some other resources. As you can see, It is open to be edited by anyone.
Probably thanks to your note someone will decide to make a critical review of that article, if not I will definitely mention your concern during my next training session and will encourage editors to develop the article. Hope you are satisfied.
Kazakhstan is still under transition from Soviet Union to democracy and free market. 90% of schools and universities still belong to the government, most penetrated media recourses as well belong toe the state, unfortunately there is no self sufficient publishing market in the country yet, so big encyclopedias published by the government. in order to promote WP and make it widespread we needed support of the government. For absence of misconception, it was WikiBilim who approached the government and asked for help.
- How exactly the government "supports" WikiBilim?
- The government decided to publish all 10 volumes of national encyclopedia under CC license and donated it to the WP. Please note, that next edition of the paper based national encyclopedia will be based on the articles edited by the community.
- In order to explain what is CC and promote free content the government invested in translation and publication in Kazakh of Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig and seriously considering putting CC in the formal copy-write law.
- the government ordered to the ministry of education to open access for Wikibilim for seminars and training in university campuses, moreover under our request the ministry working on using WP as a innovative educational tool based on the american experience
- the government opened access for Wikibilim to all kind of media to spread the information
- without that support Samruk-Kazyna wouldn't donate to development of WP, by the way currently we are preparing full financial report on fund usage by WikiBilim.
- the government opened national TV channel for TED talks broadcasting