WPA for the 21st Century

There’s been some talk about re-instituting the WPA as a way to get people back into the workforce quickly as done during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The idea has some merit, though the types of jobs we would give people need to be geared for the issues of the 21st century.

One area I’d recommend including in a revived WPA would be that of training Wikipedia contributors and editors. Wikipedia training centers could be established to teach folks the basics in working with the site, provide internet connections, laptops, and a few on-site staff to assist people as they edit pages and add content. In addition to simple proof-reading/copyediting work, there’s a lot of untapped primary knowledge out there among the unemployed and retired, and it would be a great public service to facilitate capturing it within Wikipedia.

Sure, the bulk of the recently unemployed are in the manufacturing sector (who may not be so computer savvy), but most sectors of the economy have been affected to some degree. And especially if you include retired folks in this group (the ‘boomers officially started retiring in 2008 when the first ones turned 62), there would be a fairly diverse bunch of folks that such a program could reach. And perhaps this could help train and transition some of our manufacturing sector folks to be knowledge workers.

Wikipedia has seen a drop off in the number of active editors and new articles recently, and could benefit from the revitalization that such new blood would bring. Wikipedia staff could help manage the program to help direct editorial work towards the most needy articles/subject areas.

So what do you think of having a WikiPedia Assistance project as part of a 21st century WPA? What other projects would worthwhile to include in a revamped WPA?

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