By Joy Okosieme
The World Health Organization and Wikimedia Foundation are collaborating to expand access to trusted information about COVID-19 on Wikipedia
A statement on Thursday by the two organizations said the collaboration is part of a shared commitment from both organizations to ensure everyone has access to critical public health information surrounding the global corona virus pandemic.
The collaboration will make trusted, public health information available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license at a time countries face continuing resurgences of COVID-19 and social stability increasingly depends on the public’s shared understanding of the facts.
According to the statement, through the collaboration, people everywhere will be able to access and share WHO infographics, videos, and other public health assets on Wikimedia Commons, a digital library of free images and other multimedia.
With these new freely-licensed resources, Wikipedia’s more than 250,000 volunteer editors can also build on and expand the site’s COVID-19 coverage, which currently offers more than 5,200 coronavirus-related articles in 175 languages. This WHO content will also be translated across national and regional languages through Wikipedia’s vast network of global volunteers.
“Equitable access to trusted health information is critical to keeping people safe and informed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Our new collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation will increase access to reliable health information from WHO across multiple countries, languages, and devices.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, WHO has taken steps to prevent an “infodemic”— defined by the organization as “an overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news, images, and videos.”
Wikipedia editors have similarly been on the frontlines of preventing the spread of misinformation surrounding the coronavirus, ensuring information about the pandemic is based on reliable sources and updated regularly on Wikipedia.
The two organizations say by making verified information about the pandemic available to more people on one of the world’s most-visited knowledge resources, they hope to help curb this infodemic and ensure everyone can access critical public health information.
“Access to information is essential to healthy communities and should be treated as such.
This becomes even more clear in times of global health crises when information can have life-changing consequences. All institutions, from governments to international health agencies, scientific bodies to Wikipedia, must do our part to ensure everyone has equitable and trusted access to knowledge about public health, regardless of where you live or the language you speak”, said Katherine Maher, CEO at the Wikimedia Foundation.
WHO has served as the leading international health agency spearheading the global response to the coronavirus outbreak. Since the beginning, WHO has worked to rapidly establish international coordination, scale up country readiness and response, and accelerate research and innovation. Today, as information on the transmission and epidemiology of the virus evolves, WHO continues to provide essential guidance and public health recommendations to governments, communities and individuals everywhere.
At the same time, Wikipedia volunteer editors, many of whom are from the medical community, have been creating, updating, and translating Wikipedia articles with information from reliable sources about the pandemic. As one of the top ten sites in the world, studies have shown that Wikipedia is one of the most frequently viewed sources for health information.
At the moment, readers can access WHO’s mythbusting series of infographics on Wikimedia Commons. The infographics, which focus on addressing common misconceptions about COVID-19, are also available for Wikipedia editors to incorporate into Wikipedia articles.
The statement said in the coming months, the two organizations will continue to upload resources to Wikimedia Commons and collaborate with Wikipedia volunteer editors to better understand gaps in information needs on Wikipedia articles related to COVID-19 and how WHO resources can help fill these gaps.
Additionally, under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, other organizations, individuals, and websites can more easily share these materials on their own platforms without having to address stricter copyright restrictions.