It is one of the top viewed websites on the planet and it’s aiming to make information free to everyone.
We’re talking about Wikipedia, and Monday the founder of the famed site spoke in Sarasota for the RCLA Town Hall lecture series.
In 2001, Jimmy Wales had spent years in finance, but he had a yearning for something bigger.
“As a kid, I loved encyclopedias, and I thought, people could work together on an encyclopedia,” said Wales.
That year, he launched Wikipedia and it soon became one of the top sources of information on the planet, all built on the idea of a collective gathering of knowledge.
To date there are more than 47,000,000 Wikipedia articles in more than 300 languages.
Now Wales is taking aim on helping developing countries that are just now getting access to smartphones.
“The next billion people are coming online in the next five to 10 years, and they want to have Wikipedia in their own language,” said Wales.
The non-profit website has been funding local chapters and starting education projects to kickstart Wikipedia in these nations, but Wales says in some of these countries, people are taking matters into their own hands and creating articles in their own language.
“People can be very passionate,” said Wales. “You need to have learning materials in your mother tongue.”
Wales next project is to help local news.
“Democracy really depends on local news media,” said Wales.
He’s currently working on the “Wikitribune,” a startup that strives to provide news that is written and edited by professionals and volunteers.
“How can we combine professional journalists and a quality community in doing something new,” said Wales.
Wikipedia has revolutionized the spread of information and he hopes his new project can sustain local newsrooms and cut through the clutter of fake news.