Wikimedia wants more South Africans to contribute to Wikipedia, launches campaign

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The Wikimedia Foundation has announced a campaign in collaboration with the South African creative community promoting the right of access to knowledge and encouraging locals to contribute to Wikipedia.

They launched the campaign on 28 September, the International Day for Universal Access to Information.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, said that over the next four weeks it will release online multimedia content created by South African creatives.

The campaign also aims to invite content creators to explore the Wikipedia platform and its model of open collaboration.

It also takes into account South Africa’s history of unequal access to knowledge, inviting more people to take part in creating and sharing knowledge.

“Access to knowledge and information in South Africa has too often been limited by class barriers and divided along racial lines,” Khanyi Mpumlwana, the Foundation’s Creative Director said in a statement.

“Through this campaign, we want to show all content creators across the country that knowledge can take various forms and that we can all play a part in its creation.”

Why is Wikimedia collaborating with creatives in South Africa?

Another reason for the collaboration with local content creators is the need for more geographical diversity among Wikipedia’s contributors.

The foundation notes that only 1.5% of the encyclopedia’s 280 000 global volunteer contributors are based in Africa.

Wikimedia’s statistics for active editors by country show 430 active editors in SA for August 2021 for the English version of Wikipedia. Nigeria, despite its larger population than South Africa, had 390.

When compared with wealthier countries with lower populations, the discrepancy in active editor numbers becomes noticeable.

For example, Australia, with less than half the population of SA, had 3 000 active editors for the same period.

The Republic of Ireland, with a population of just under 5 million people, had 570 active editors. Meanwhile, the UK, with a slightly higher population at 66.7 million compared to SA’s 58.6 million, had 7000 active editors.

“As a result, Wikipedia articles are missing perspectives from Africa; history written about South Africa and other countries is being documented by people in other regions of the world, making them less representative and leaving large content gaps,” the foundation said in its statement.

The campaign aims to promote the contribution of locals to knowledge about the country. Currently, nine out of 11 of South Africa’s official languages are available on the encyclopedia.

“When more people from diverse backgrounds collaborate on Wikipedia, they move us closer to achieving our vision of ensuring our projects reflect the diversity of knowledge from people, cultures and languages around the world,” Anusha Alikhan, Senior Director of Communications at the Wikimedia Foundation, said.

“South Africans have a role to play in shaping this global resource, telling their own histories, and creating content about South Africa by South Africans.”

Wikipedia South Africa campaign

The campaign includes filmmakers, artists, and writers.  Creatives taking part include Monde Gumede, Zayaan Khan, Kabelo Kungwane, Amogelang Maledu, Khensani Mohlatlole, Ridhwaan Suliman, and Zandi Tisani.

The campaign will cover a range of topics unpacked through online content. This includes a short film by Gumede looking at misinformation and how it worsens our social divide.

Khan will explore natural environments from a socio-political angle, while Kungwane’s series will look at South African culture and fashion.

Maledu will look at sound cultures in Southern Africa and Mohlatlole  will explore South African popular culture.

Suliman will tackle the importance of accurate information, while Tisani will look at the history of South African film.

Anyone who would like to follow the campaign online can check out the hashtag #WikipediaByUs.

Meanwhile, those who would like to get involved in the South African Wikimedia chapter can visit the Wikimedia South Africa site.

Read more: Story agency Bird aims to shift media narratives about Africa

Megan Ellis, Editor
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