Drive launched to ‘African­ise’ Wikipedia

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - COLLEEN GOKO gokoc@bdlive.co.za

WIKIPEDIA, the free on­line en­cy­clo­pe­dia edited by its read­ers, has em­barked on a pro­ject to in­crease con­tent em­a­nat­ing from Africa.

Wikipedia is the sixth-most pop­u­lar web­site and gen­er­ates 15% of all in­ter­net traf­fic.

Data show that more than 80% of en­tries and ed­its orig­i­nate in Europe and North Amer­ica. Coun­tries such as the US, Ger­many, the UK and France have an aver­age of more than a mil­lion ed­its ev­ery quar­ter, and Africa man­ages only a few thou­sand.

A pro­ject called Wiki-Africa is set to change that. It will try to African­ise Wikipedia by gen­er­at­ing and ex­pand­ing 30,000 ar­ti­cles over the next two years. Wikipedia pro­ject man­ager Isla Had­dow-Flood says this will be done by ac­ti­vat­ing com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als to con­trib­ute their sto­ries and knowl­edge to Wikipedia.

“The ma­jor­ity of en­tries on Wiki — even about Africa — have been writ­ten by peo­ple in Europe and Amer­ica. They write their en­tries based on their knowl­edge and the me­dia that they con­sume. Most for­eign me­dia on Africa tend to per­pet­u­ate a neg­a­tive im­age and this doesn’t serve the con­ti­nent well,” she said.

Last week, a Wikipedia Wor­dathon was held to im­prove SA’s dig­i­tal imprint on the site. Ad­di­tions were made to en­tries on Gugulethu, malva pud­ding, and the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards en­tries — all in isiXhosa.

Prof Robert Thorn­ton, from the Univer­sity of Wit­wa­ter­srand’s an­thro­pol­ogy depart­ment, says more cov­er­age is needed on is­sues such as in­dige­nous knowl­edge. “You won’t find much in­for­ma­tion about SA on Wikipedia. Mak­ing an en­try is quite a dif­fi­cult process ... but it is a worth­while ex­peri- ence. Peo­ple world­wide use Wikipedia and it’s the best way to pro­mote our­selves.”

Ms Had­dow-Flood says mil­lions of eyes pe­ruse the web­site.

“Know­ing this, it be­comes even more im­por­tant for South African and African voices to tell their sto­ries. Even if you’re read­ing about Shaka Zulu, it’s from the po­si­tion of the Bri­tish — which is one ver­sion of the story. An edit from the Zulu per­spec­tive will add the bal­ance where right now it’s skewed. African sto­ries need to be truth­fully told and who bet­ter to tell them than those liv­ing them?”

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