A key focus of the first Wikimania conference in sub-Saharan Africa, which will be held in Cape Town on July 18, is on increasing regional contributions to the world’s largest free, collaboratively built online encyclopedia.
The 14th annual Wikimania conference, the annual gathering of volunteers from around the world to celebrate Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, will bring together more than 500 people to discuss the future of Wikipedia and free knowledge globally.
Wikimedia sites are read about 15-billion times a month globally but only a small portion of volunteer Wikipedia editors come from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Anyone can edit Wikipedia in any of its almost 300 different language versions, including isiZulu, Kiswahili, Hausa, Amharic, Arabic and Afrikaans.
“To achieve knowledge equity, we need to have more voices represented in our community,” says Ellie Young, the conference organiser for Wikimania.
“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.”
Ghanaian Wikipedia contributor and free knowledge activist Felix Nartey says some of the primary barriers to contributions from people living in Africa is limited time and poor access to an enabling environment, such as computers and the affordability of the internet.
“We have been engaging with our communities and holding a number of successful editathon sessions,” says Nartey. “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.”
For example, in a collaboration with the social theory course at Ashesi University in Ghana, students have been given class assignments that have led to contributions of their research and term papers on Wikipedia through the Wikipedia Education Programme model.
In other parts of Africa, organised thematic workshops targeted at bridging the gender gap and other systematic biases that exist in 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,” says Douglas Scott, the president of the Wikimedia chapter of South Africa. “The only way we are going to shift the content bias is by adding content that represents a more diverse user base.”
With more than five million English language articles on Wikipedia, Scott says more African contributors can get involved by creating an account on Wikipedia and testing different ways to edit — whether it’s fixing a grammatical error, 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 on specific areas of interest. WikiProjects consist of groups of contributors who work together to create and improve articles about a specific topic. — Wikipedia
For a general guide on how to get started on Wikipedia see this link