Wikipedia Goes To Africa -- Israeli Students to Leave for Humanitarian Work in Africa, Equipped With Portable Static Wikipedia

Ben-Gurion University's "Africa Center", Wikimedia Israel, and Hamakor cooperate in making free knowledge accessible in Africa

The Africa Center at BGU, headed by Dr. Tamar Golan, annually sends a group of students on a three-month humanitarian expedition to developing countries in Africa.  This year's group is going to the Repbulic of Benin and the Republic of Cameroon.  

Learning about this while approaching the Africa Center for help with developing Africa-related entries on the Hebrew Wikipedia, Wikimedia Israel decided to equip the students with computers running free software and containing an offline (static) version of the French Wikipedia, so that the students can bring free knowledge to Africans without access to the Internet.

Wikimedia Israel reached out to Hamakor, the Israeli Free and Open Source Software NGO, and Hamakor helped obtain computer donations, refurbished them and installed the Linux operating system on them.

Wikimedia Israel collaborated with members of Wikimedia Switzerland and Wikimedia France to produce an up-to-date static version of the French Wikipedia (numbering about 1 million entries, and including images), French being a major language of reading and writing in Cameroon and Benin.

"The students also have portable installations of the offline Wikipedia, so that they may install it on any other computers they may run across in Africa," explained Asaf Bartov, who coordinated the project in Wikimedia Israel, "and they have received training on using Linux and Kiwix, the offline Wikipedia reader (free) software, so they may train others to use the computers".

Incidentally, the Linux version installed on those computers is called Ubuntu Linux, 'Ubuntu' being an African word (in the Zulu language) roughly translatable as "unity of mankind" or "mutual reliance".

Supporting and promoting the distribution of free knowledge in developing countries is one of the five major goals identified by the Wikimedia Foundation as central to its five-year strategy plan, developed by thousands of members of the Wikimedia Movement.

Itzik Edri
Spokesman, Wikimedia Israel