Wikipedia gears up for first SSA conference with call for more content from the continent
As preparations continue for the first Wikimania conference in sub-Saharan Africa in Cape Town (18-22 July), a key focus will be on increasing more regional contribution to the world’s largest free, collaboratively-built online encyclopedia.
The 14th annual Wikimania 2018 conference, the annual gathering of volunteers from around the world to celebrate Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, is expected to bring together over 500 volunteers from around the world to discuss and share ideas around the future of Wikipedia and free knowledge globally.
Wikimedia sites are read approximately 15 billion times a month globally, however only a small portion of volunteer Wikipedia editors come from Asia, Africa, and Latin America combined.
Anyone can edit Wikipedia in any of its almost 300 different language versions including Swahili, Hausa, Amharic, Arabic and Afrikaans versions.
“To achieve knowledge equity we need to have more voices represented in our community. This is why we are creating an inclusive environment for people from all over the world to contribute knowledge in a way that considers custom, language, access to bandwidth, and more,” said Ellie Young, Conference Organizer for Wikimania.
Ghanaian Wikipedia contributor and free knowledge activist Felix Nartey says that some of the primary barriers to contribution from people living in Africa is lack of time and lack of access to an enabling environment (computers and access/affordability of internet).
“We have been engaging with our communities and holding a number of successful editathon sessions. What is apparent is that African people have a real appetite to see themselves represented on this platform. They want to see their content and their languages on Wikipedia and are crashing through some of the structural barriers to do so,” said Mr. Nartey.
For example, through a collaboration with the Social Theory Course at Ashesi University in Ghana, students have been given class assignments which have led to contributions of their research and term papers on Wikipedia through the Wikipedia Education Program model.
Across other parts of Africa, organised thematic workshops targeted at bridging the gender gap and other systematic biases that exist on Wikipedia have also been held.
Work to create more regional content also continues. In South Africa, Afrikaans and isiZulu are the most active language Wikipedias other than English.
“If you are passionate about a specific topic or piece of local history, or if you would like to see more articles in your own language, register and start making your contributions. The only way we are going to shift the content bias is by adding content that represents a more diverse user base,” said Douglas Scott, President of the Wikimedia Chapter of South Africa.
With over 5 million articles already on English language Wikipedia, Mr. Scott says that more African contributors can get involved by creating an account on Wikipedia and testing out different ways to edit -- whether it’s fixing a grammatical error or adding a citation to an existing article, creating a new article, or asking other volunteer editors for support in reviewing a draft article you created.
Articles on Wikipedia need to have verifiable references and sources. This means that facts must be drawn from recognisable publications and institutions. A great way for more African contributors to get involved is to join a WikiProject around specific areas of interest. WikiProjects consist of groups of contributors who work together to create and improve articles about a specific topic on Wikipedia.