WX Celebrations-II

This post attempts to share the ‘Wikis in Education and Public Policy‘ Introductory workshop/Square table conference 😛

After being delayed for around more than an hour as Barry had reached late to SICSR at 16:30 the whole schedule had also got little bit delayed. Hence after seeing all the drawings and words of encouragement and advice both from Barry and Mr. Lalit Kathpalia, Director SICSR and Anupam we decided to go to Yashda .

While we were worried a bit that people would be waiting for us and we would be late, it turned out to be the usual ‘IST‘ Indian Standard Timing that everybody follows.

Mr. Prahlad Kachare, Director, Public Policy, Yashda took the opportunity to play the perfect host and invited us to one of the guest-rooms and refreshments were served. This also provided us the ample opportunity to relax, Barry was looking a little harried although he did his best not to show it. Later in the day came to know he had been travelling within India for last 4 days or so . Anyways, after spending about 40 odd minutes getting to know each other we went to the Conference/Workshop/Introduction whatever you may want to call it.

On reaching the venue/room I was pulled to be part of the panel on the dias to help out with any technical queries about Wikis in general.

Here too, Mr. Prahlad was the perfect host and took over compering for the whole event. He read an introductory note/Inaugural address  about Wikis and their role they play and can play in dissemination of knowledge,ideas and sharing.

Mr. R.G. Rao addressing the workshop
Mr. R.G. Rao addressing the workshop - Image: Yashda

After the gentle introduction, Mr. Prahlad invited Mr. R.G.Rao,  Special Officer in-charge,Yashda (pictured above)  to give an overview of similar activities taken with Yashda . Mr. Rao went into some detail on the various endeavours and initiatives undertaken in Yashda. For e.g. they were using moodle to make more efficient learning. Wikis being a part of that process to enable greater sharing and updating of knowledge.

After Mr. Rao’s brief overview how Yashda is involved in taking this initiative forward, Mr. Prahlad  invited Mr. Anupam to share his views on Wikis as Mr. Anupam  had been the initiator for the idea of having an  introductory  Workshop/Conference  on using  Wikis as a tool in the Education and Public Policy ideation and knowledge creation and dissemination.

Mr. Anupam addressing the workshop
Mr. Anupam addressing the workshop - Image: Yashda

Mr. Anupam (pictured above) gave a brief overview of  how the idea of using Wikis in Education and Government works.  He also recounted in brief the experiments with  Giki , an attempt made by him and Mr. Ranjit Gadgil of Parisar to provide an environment where citizen activists and various arms of the Municipal wards could put as much information as possible in the public domain.

Mr. Ranjit addressing the workshop
Mr. Ranjit Gadgil addressing the workshop, Parisar - Image:Yashda

After his remarks, Mr. Prahlad invited Mr. Ranjit Gadgil (pictured above) to give a broad overview of what the Giki experience had been. Mr. Gadgil was pretty honest in his assessment and recounted the various issues they had faced while implementing the Giki.

There were quite a few interesting points he made that kinda stuck in my head

a. For a lot of people whatever is written, even on a website is sacrosanct and true :- This has been an ongoing issue I see in the blogs, sites  and various online phenomena.  Is it just an Indian thing or perhaps more global is the only question I have ? Why we trust words written on a site implicitly when we know the brain behind it is just like you & I having both pressures and known and unknown biases built-in. That’s the way it is.

b. They had made a perhaps too radical a look in Giki just when the community was starting to shape up which didn’t encourage the users to take it more. I wish he had spoken more on that as that would have been really interesting to see, perhaps a before and after UI would have given some more depth and ideas to what ailed or what issues they were trying to tackle which somehow backfired.

c. One of the more interesting statements that Mr. Ranjit made during his presentation was to bring out that in the recent Mayor’s budget there had been quite a number of clerical mistakes as well as they have raised some taxes . Sadly, he  did not elaborate whether it was octroi or VAT

What was shocking and yet interesting to note was that was something that all the  policy makers and educationists were unaware of. Perhaps it indicates all the busy lives we have or perhaps the fracturizing of politics in general, don’t really know.

d. Anupam also asked  Mr. Ranjit to also share  some of the positives they had from the project where  Mr. Ranjit shared some success they had during the Metro when it was the talk of the town for both good and bad  as an issue which had been taken up on the wiki .

e. There was also something about the floods where the wiki had proven to be a success of sorts but again it felt a bit short as he did not elaborate more on the same.

Overview of the Workshop - Image:Yashda
Overview of the Workshop participants - Image:Yashda

As it was time for the Guest of Honor, Barry Newstead to speak ,  Mr. Anupam came on the dias and thanked a few people in the audience specifically as they had made special efforts to be there. Some people from Janwani and some other professors and couple of people from an NGO  which  is specifically working with some 15-20 villages to get all the river bodies in the villages mapped were also thanked.

More on that aspect was also touched upon  in the Q&A which came at the latter part of the workshop.

Then Anupam introduced Barry’s history. Mr. Anupam also stressed for Barry to talk of more the Wikimedia foundation and its activities rather than Wikipedia as this was the appropriate audience to know of Wikimedia activities,  of which while Wikipedia is a large chunk but they are also growing active in other areas.

Mr. Barry Newstead addressing the workshop
Mr. Barry Newstead addressing the workshop Image:Yashda

The dias was lastly taken over by Mr. Barry who gave a brief overview of Wikimedia foundation and its various activities. He recounted or
shared a wiki initiative/pilot project which documents all the proposed legislation in the various federal state and center (Not
really know American politics so please don’t quote me here) but
something on those lines. More information can be had on the link given above.The end game being that all new legislation is being put up on wikis by students who are doing/studying political science or whatever they are learning and for that they get course credits or similar lines.

The idea behind it is simple, get all of the proposed laws and any fine-tunings online so anybody who wants to take a look or know what new legislation is going to come up and take part in making their view points known.

Mr. Barry just touched upon it but did not go into great detail but he did give some ideas and guidelines as to how it could be framed if something similar were to be tried out here.

Incidentally, Mr. Anupam also has a similar idea/initiative in his mind as well in the Indian context as well. Let’s see how that plays out.

If he does get it rolling, there is possibility of getting a wide range of ideas and people would contribute to it.  So many non-profits and various citizen activists may possibly contribute to an initiative like that but as always the devil is always in the details.

Yours truly tackling some query - Image:Yashda
Yours truly tackling some query - Image:Yashda

Anyways, as we had already been past the hour,  the Q&A session followed where yours truly  and Mr. Barry had to tackle/field  most of the questions.

Most of the questions were from :-

a. Who writes Wikipedia ?
b. How can one vouch for authenticity of information ?
c. What to do in case if you found some information and thought was fishy
d. What sort of policies would make a community happen around a wiki and some more in the same vein.

What was interesting was a gentlemen (I forget the name of the NGO he represented, sorry sir) who was about the river mapping thing asked what tools he could use to get the mapping thing done and Mr. Lalit (Director, Symbiosis) took up the challenge of helping him get
it done.

Frankly, the basic idea would be to use GPS Waypoints, OpenStreetmap
and a wiki.

For me,  it would be interesting to see and know if the data they put up (which is usually put up as layers) is put up free or it becomes another guarded thing. There are quite a proprietary databases which also OSM as a base map and yes, even if they have proprietary data they do end up enriching the base map somewhat but all this is outside the course of things. I have played with that in the past so know a bit about that.

We actually had to end  the session  as we had already committed that time e for the meet at SICSR otherwise the crowd was enthusiastic and at least the Q&A would have stretched for at least another 2 hours.

We just jumped on the car and somehow just made it back to SICSR.

All in a day’s work. Few examples of having wikis in action.

Feel like hitchhiking  across India? Or more concerned about Appropriate Technology and Ecology or more concerned about WWII analog still-cameras as a hobby, passion and/or work or even the US Govt. using Wikis .

These are just barely scratching the surface of what is or can be done with the power of Wikis. Of course, lot of work, passions and ideas are needed to make it a reality. The Wiki is in some sense just the blackboard (or whiteboard) its up to us how to use it 🙂

Please read Mr. Ashwin Baindur’s post as well to get an overview of the day’s events as well.

2 thoughts on “WX Celebrations-II

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