Wikipedia wants South Africans to contribute

Despite being one of the most visited sites in South Africa, only a fraction of Wikipedia readers contribute to the open encyclopedia by creating or editing articles. A local movement wants to change that.

Wikipedians and open source enthusiasts gathered at WITS University this weekend to discuss the formation of a South African Wikimedia Chapter. They plan to launch initiatives to address gaps in local content, with particular focus on minority languages. A recent count shows that South African languages are still tiny when compared to the almost 3.5 million English articles.

Language Number of Articles
Afrikaans 15,830
Swati 183
Tsonga 173
Venda 164
Zulu 145
Xhosa 115
Tswana 105
Sotho 69

Recording knowledge from largely oral traditions was highlighted as an obstacle in light of Wikipedia’s strict policy on citations. Another challenge was the survival of local content on the English Wikipedia, where American views sometimes dominated. Recently for example, local Wikipedians had to fight against the deletion of an article on Die Antwoord, a local hip-hop group that foreign editors had ruled irrelevant. (For those who might have just woken up from a nine-year long sleep, anyone can be an editor on Wikipedia).

A core group of volunteers has been tasked with setting up a legal structure and producing documentation to submit to the Wikimedia Foundation, an umbrella organisation that oversees Wikipedia and its sister projects. The process is expected to be finalised over the next six to eight months.

Some of the planned activities include building relationships with universities and the Department of Education to improve the perception of Wikipedia as a reliable source, teaching students how to make contributions and organising physical meetings where collaborations will take place.



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