Wiki New Zealand

Lillian Grace, founder of Wiki New Zealand, wants New Zealanders to make informed decisions. To this end, Lillian and others have uploaded a bunch of graphs and thematic maps based on public data to wikinewzealand.org, a new collaborative website.

While some of the data is used with permission, all of the content by Wiki New Zealand itself is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

Lillian had the idea for Wiki New Zealand in February 2012, while working for the New Zealand Institute. While giving talks to community and business groups, Lillian realised that, “Every single issue that we addressed would have been easier to deal with if more people understood the basic facts.

Creative Commons seemed like a natural fit… I never actually considered not using it.

“That’s one of the driving forces for me behind Wiki New Zealand. I’m concerned for New Zealand’s future and I think that the best chance we have of getting the best outcomes is if more people are informed and can make informed decisions.”

Lillian is especially interested in connecting people to public data in such a way that “doesn’t require them to have a great deal of time or skill.”

“I’ve seen the power of informed decisions. I’ve seen the light go on in people when they learn something that they didn’t know.”

To help more New Zealander’s find out about their country, Lillian decided to apply a Creative Commons Attribution licence to all Wiki New Zealand content. This licence allows users to share and adapt Wiki New Zealand content, as long as they provide attribution.

As Lillian puts it, “Creative Commons seemed like a natural fit because it seems like its purposes are very aligned with Wiki New Zealand’s purposes. I never actually considered not using it.”

“I really believe in sharing data and information. I like Creative Commons. Part of it is the language that it uses. It seems like its purpose is very clear. It’s a very sensible structure. It’s not scary to use. I felt very safe and responsible, like I was doing the right thing. This is very important when it comes to copyright, which can be quite daunting.”

Wiki New Zealand will soon add individual licensing statements for each graph, to ensure that users know exactly what they can do with Wiki New Zealand’s source data. While most content is sourced from New Zealand government agencies using Creative Commons licences, some of the content is made available under a more restrictive licensing agreement. “Some of the sources are fully open, like Statistics New Zealand, but some sources only let their data be reproduced for free if it’s not for commercial use.”

I want it to infiltrate the culture… to make it normal to know your country

Lillian is planning to introduce the full wiki functionality to the site in May. “When it’s a proper wiki, registered users will be able to add data for graphs themselves.”

“Imagine a scientist in the South Island collecting bacteria samples in fresh water—that’s great information. I’d be interested in knowing about that. But there has not been any mechanism to easily and regularly share such data with the public.  Wiki New Zealand will enable them to submit their data in an online visual form that can be viewed and valued by the rest of the country.

“The process will be audited for content accuracy and impartiality, and the graphs are dynamically generated with a consistent look and feel to make them as easy as possible to make and digest.”

Lillian is hoping for a wide range of innovative reuse. “Anyone can do anything with the information Wiki New Zealand provides, as long as they abide by the licensing of the original sources. We’re providing our graphs in a range of different formats. Journalists can download the graphs and add their own branding, as long as they attribute the sources and Wiki New Zealand. They can repackage it how they like.”

To help promote the site, Lillian has introduced a ‘Know Your Country’ feature, which tests users’ knowledge about New Zealand.

While the site will be extremely useful for teachers and journalists, Lillian hopes that it will appeal to all New Zealanders. “It’s hard to pinpoint specific users, as it really is for everyone.”

“I want it to infiltrate the culture, to make it cool to know your country, to make it normal to know your country.”

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