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Wikipedia – The Utopia That Survived And Thrived

Wikipedia is an example that tells us that a human powered, tech enabled not for profit success is not a Utopia.

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Technology is an enabler, disruptor, value creator all rolled into one. The most valuable corporations in the world are young companies brought into existence and prominence by the power of internet technology.

In the present world, technology appears, transforms and diffuses at ever faster rates. It impacts every aspect of life, jobs, industries, communities, the origin and wielding of power. It is even forcing us to reevaluate what it means to be human.

It is estimated that the Internet of Things will comprise of 6 billion devices by 2025. All of these will be connected and monitored in real time. In such a world there is fierce inter-corporate inter-national and inter-bloc competition to gain the advantage. Proprietary technology, intellectual property, patents – these are matters of national, planetary importance. 

More as technology becomes the source of power, more the corporations become above the government or society. Twitter can bans a sitting US President. Facebook can ‘boycott’ a country but not the other way around.

Is there any example of a better way? In my opinion it's Wikipedia. It turned 20 years old this year. Its survival and success is a big deal 

This is the one flower from the field of early internet that bloomed. It is a great example of crowd wisdom, untainted by baser motivations. Open to all, written often by amateurs, it is 'freely' available and always evolving. It is a hope, dream and prayer, all- in-one. I go frequently to it via search. Writing this article made me aware that my familiarity has not bred any contempt. 

Wikipedia is vast and it needs to be as deep as it is expansive. My maternal grandfather had bought me the junior encyclopedia Britannica when I was a young boy and I had asked him if it had in it everything there is to know. He had told me "the more we know the more we realize we know very little". He was right. 

Wikipedia is funded by donors, is 'not-for-profit' and open to us all to add to its content. Isn't that a worthy model? No VC, PE, jealous sponsor, corrupting advertiser - there is something appealing in it.

The underlying argument is that it focuses on readers and contributors. No algorithm dictates that one is more valuable than the other "customer".

Yes it is not an academically kosher source of knowledge. Scrutiny depends on subject popularity. Updating is patchy and the most referred articles get updated better.  References are often neglected. But that's the point of "each of us needs to be a better version”. Only if we care, do things improve.

No shareholder, no instant billionaire, no unicorn tag, no frenzy. Just good intent. 

Wikipedia began with its first edit on 15 January 2001, two days after the domain was registered by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. 

The Wikipedia project has grown rapidly in the course of its life, at several levels. Content has grown organically through the addition of new articles, new wikis have been added in English and non-English languages, and entire new projects replicating these growth methods in other related areas (news, quotations, reference books and so on) have been founded as well. 

Wikipedia itself has grown, with the creation of the ‘Wikimedia Foundation’ to act as an umbrella body and the growth of software and policies to address the needs of the editorial community. 

Wikipedia turned 20 years old this year. It has 53 million pages, 6.5 million articles and 310 active languages. It is amongst the most popular sites on the internet.

It has many challenges like a smart evolution from desktop era design to the smartphone world. It needs to provide a 'fact checker' editorial structure. It needs more traction in Asia and Africa where it can be even more valuable. But it has the momentum to solve for these issues. 

Wikipedia is an example that tells us that a human powered, tech enabled not for profit success is not a Utopia. 

We can say cheers to that!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Shubhranshu Singh

VP- Domestic & IB, Tata Motors, CVBU

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