Last week, Saylor Foundation staff made the quick journey to the George Washington University over the weekend to participate in Wikimania 2012. To kick off the first day of sessions, we had the pleasure of hearing from Mary Gardiner, co-founder of the Ada Initiative and Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia.

Wikimania is an annual conference which allows the global Wikimedia “community and the general public to learn about and share their experiences with free knowledge initiative all over the world.” This year over 1,000 people from 87 countries attended the conference. In addition, The U.S. Department of State’s Office of eDiplomacy was the co-host of the conference.

With such a broad audience, it is not surprising that the theme of the opening ceremony was diversity and inclusion.

Gardiner, the first woman to give the opening address at the conference since it started in 2005, focused her remarks on the gender gap within the Wikipedia community. According to a 2011 Editor Survey, over a third of Wikipedia readers are women while the amount of women editors totals around 8.5 percent. Gardiner explained how the Wikipedia community can be more inclusive by being open to change and allowing people to have more than one identity. After all, the goal of Wikipedia is to have an open community to share and spread knowledge.

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing,” said Wales in his opening address.

Wales expanded on how Wikipedia is achieving this mission through making editing easier, the creation of the Wikimedia Foundation’s mobile initiative and making Wikipedia more welcoming to subcultures such as women and those who are not tech savvy. With each of these points, Wales hopes more people will be encouraged to join the Wikipedia community as editors and contributors and also make the platform more globally accessible.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated Wales’ sentiments on the goal of Wikimedia in her letter to the conference attendees:

“The world is more connected now than ever before, but there is still much work to be done to fully capitalize on the potential of this interconnection. There are many people who are disenfranchised because they lack access to information; there are others whose contributions would make our collective knowledge richer, but they face risks and difficulties in doing so. Your work with the Wikimedia Foundation contributes greatly to achieving our shared goal of making information more open and accessible.”

Secretary Clinton’s words along with the Gardiner and Wales’s goals for Wikimedia struck a chord with the Saylor staff because we are all striving for the same thing- to make knowledge free and easily accessible to the global community.

As sponsors of the event we met some incredible people who share our passion for education. Were you at Wikimania? Share your experience with us in the comments section!

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