Abraham Taherivand is Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland since December 2016. Since 2012 he was responsible for the software development and future innovations of the Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia and Wikidata as the Head of Software Development & Engineering for Wikimedia Deutschland. He is a serial entrepreneur in the technology, internet, and consumer goods industries and has been coaching, applying and adapting innovation processes and methods for several companies and organizations in different contexts with a focus on agile and lean enterprises
Innoboard: Digitization affects all industries and companies. What does Digitization mean for NGO´s like Wikimedia Germany?
Abraham Taherivand: One of the effects of digitization is that we have many new ways and tools to work collaboratively. Never before in human history has it been possible to work together to spread knowledge and absorb new knowledge at this rate. It is incredible how fast knowledge can spread and how many opportunities are arising from this process that we had not even thought of. As an NGO, we attach great value to the opportunities for civic engagement online, for volunteers to connect and build common projects.
Wikimedia is often mixed up with Wikipedia, since this is the platform all of us use on a daily basis. However, Wikimedia supports many other platforms. What other projects are you working on?
Wikipedia is one of 12 platforms, which we provide for volunteers to create and distribute Free Knowledge. All are on the basis of collaborative work of volunteers, e.g. a dictionary called Wiktionary, a free media repository called Wikimedia Commons, a travel guide called Wikivoyage, or the free knowledge database called Wikidata. No one is paid to edit in our projects and we as an entity strictly do not work on the content. As the German Wikimedia chapter, our scope goes beyond these platforms and the support of their volunteer authors. We develop free software, work together with cultural institutions and scientists in order to gain more knowledge under free licences to be used by anyone. Further, we promote modern copyright policy in Germany as well as in the EU to make sure Free Knowledge will be a part of our future.
“We want to foster Free Knowledge and love to see how others use what volunteers contribute and put together.”
The project Wikidata is a database for Free Knowledge. Speech assistants such as Siri, Google Now and Cortana already use the information provided by Wikidata. What makes Wikidata so special and why is it important for a digital future?
Like Wikipedia, Wikidata is a store of knowledge edited by a crowd of thousands of volunteers worldwide who share their knowledge. If something is inaccurate or outdated, someone in the world will know about it and change the data. This is a much faster way to contribute and use data from all around the world. Wikidata is readable by humans and machines alike and has over 42 million entries by now — only five years after it went online. I think a very valuable point for any kind of search engine is that all this knowledge can be used freely, without any contract or payment necessary. We want to foster Free Knowledge and love to see how others use what volunteers contribute and put together.
Wikimedia Germany is working together with other Wikimedia-Organizations and the Wikimedia Foundation. How important is this collaboration for the success of Wikimedia Germany?
Collaboration is the foundation of all our work. After all Wikipedia as the largest encyclopedia in history was only made possible by a global network of enthusiasts for the project. Every chapter supports volunteers in its respective country and works towards the implementation of policies in line with our vision of free access to the sum of all knowledge. Unlike the internet, laws and policies are still largely determined within national borders, which makes mutual learning between organizations all the more important. But we don’t just want to keep it internal, all our work, our learnings, are shared publicly for others to retrace and learn from, too.
“…we have started a strategic process to devise new ways of learning as an organization and of promoting our vision of Free Knowledge as an existing, usable and useful resource.”
What are your goals for Wikimedia Germany in the next 12 months?
We will work on reaching out to people and encourage them to edit, to share their knowledge. We will also go on explaining why Free Knowledge is a good thing to cultural and scientific institutions. In the EU and Germany new laws are being discussed, which are affecting our Vision and Mission, that we need to address. Additionally, we have started a strategic process to devise new ways of learning as an organization and of promoting our vision of Free Knowledge as an existing, usable and useful resource.