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Google Gives Wikimedia Millions-Plus Machine Learning Tools



Google is pouring an additional $ 3.1 million in Wikipedia, bringing its total contribution to the free encyclopedia over the past decade to more than $ 7.5 million, the company announced at the World Economic Forum Tuesday. A little over a third of those funds will go towards sustaining current efforts at Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, and the remaining $ 2 million will focus on long-term viability through the organization's endowment. Google will also begin allowing Wikipedia editors to use several of its machine learning tools for free, the tech giant said. And Wikimedia and Google will soon expand Project Tiger and a joint initiative they launched in 201

7 to increase the number of Wikipedia articles written in underrepresented languages ​​in India, including 10 new languages ​​in a handful of countries and regions. It is certainly positive that Google is investing more in Wikipedia, one of the most popular and generally trustworthy online resources in the world. But the decision is not altruistic: Supporting Wikipedia is also a shrewd business decision that will likely benefit Google for years to come. Like other tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, Google already uses Wikipedia content in a number of its own products. When you search Google for "Paris," and "knowledge panel" of information about the city will appear, some of which is sourced from Wikipedia.

Even efforts like GLOW-which will now expand to Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Middle East, and North Africa-can help Google's own bottom line. When the initiative was first launched in India, Google provided Chromebooks and Internet access to editors, while the Center for Internet and Society and Wikimedia India organized a three-month article writing competition that resulted in nearly 4,500 new Wikipedia articles in 12 different Indic languages . Smartphone penetration in India is only about 27 percent; as more people in the country start using Android smartphones and Google Search, these articles will make tech giant's products more useful. Wikipedia's blog post announcing Google's new investment makes this strategy fairly clear, noting that the company also provided Project Tiger with "insights into popular search topics on Google for which no or limited local content exists on Wikipedia."

Google is also providing Wikipedia free access to its Custom Search API and its Cloud Vision API, which will help encyclopedia's volunteer editors read more readily the facts they use. Every time a Wikipedia editor adds a new piece of information to an article, they need to cite the source where it was learned. The Search API will allow them to quickly search for sources on the web without having to leave Wikipedia, while the vision tool will let editors automatically digitize books so they can be used to support Wikipedia articles, too. Earlier this month, Wikimedia also announced Google Translate, which allowed editors to convert content into 15 additional languages, bringing the total available languages ​​to 121.

These machine learning tools will make it easier for Wikipedia to reach people who speak languages ​​currently underrepresented on the web. But the encyclopedia is also the reason why many AI programs exist in the first place. For example, Google-owned Jigsaw has used Wikipedia, in part, to train its open-source troll-fighting AI. The Encyclopedia is also used by hundreds of other AI platforms, especially because each Wikipedia article is a Creative Commons work, meaning it can be reproduced for free without copyright restrictions. Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa smart assistants use information from Wikipedia to answer questions, for example. (Both companies have also donated to the Wikimedia Foundation as well.)

Google's new investments in Wikipedia, specifically in GLOW, will address a genuine problem. The majority of Wikipedia's tens of millions of articles are in English or European languages ​​like German, French, Dutch, Russian and Spanish. (There are also lots of articles in Swedish and two versions of Filipino, but most of these pages were created by a prolific bot). As the estimated half of the Earth's population still lacks an internet connection, it will be important that reliable information is available in native languages ​​people speak.


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