[Foundation-l] African languages and MediaWiki

GerardM gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Fri Aug 18 12:16:36 UTC 2006

Wikimania was a conference that I expect to be of great importance for
stimulating the African interest in MediaWiki and Wikipedia content. I was
excited that both Kasper Souren and Martin Benjamin gave a presentation.  I
was thrilled to meet Paa Kwesi Imbeah at Wikimania, who was informed that
the work on InstantCommons can start.

As a result of the Wikimania, a yahoo group was started, afrophonewikis, and
it has already a lifely and interesting group of people interesting in
making. Topics range from using machine translation to the number of women
being literate in the indigenous languages. The overriding theme is: how do
we get people interested in creating content in the languages of Africa that
is of interest to the people of Africa in African Wikipedias.

The first hurdle to take is by making MediaWiki easy to use. There are
several technical things that can be done; the user interface can be
localised, the user instructions can be translated and we could experiment
with the WYSIWYG. On a community level, we can have provide help by
demonstrating MediaWiki and Wikipedia in a workshop format, we can create
technically great articles with examples of how you can do things, thing
that are there to be copied. We can help with the conversion of closely
related languages.

Practically, we have started in cooperation with the IICD, a Dutch NGO
active in Africa, with a project plan to localise MediaWiki and stimulate
the use of MediaWiki in Ghana. On the kasaharow wiki we have started writing
in a wiki format a project plan on doing all that. This plan is a plan that
is to be truly for the people involved in this project. So when you write
their, be sure that you want to put your effort where your mouth is.

The kasahorow people are working on dictionaries for the languages of Ghana,
one of their aims is to use it for machine translation. With the current
interst in machine translation (the Cherokee project - apertium) it would be
really great if these efforts come together and the content created in one
language can become available in another as well. Using tools like OmegaT is
one other option in easing the translations from one language to another.

IICD and many other NGO's have a wealth of information often specific to
"their" topics that they would love to make available, certainly if this
results in providing their content with more eyeballs. They are quite ready
to make it available as either Wikibooks or Wikipedia content. The current
phase of the projectplan is very much one of brainstorming.

There are many opportunities to open up Africa to the way of the wiki.
Important is that the aim is to make it work in Africa for Africans. Some of
our preconceptions about wikis will prove to be culturally biased. It will
be exciting, relevant and important to observe how we will morph in a more
international organisation.

For me, the localisation of MediaWiki will help make WiktionaryZ useful. I
have discussed in the past cooperating with kasahorow in sharing our content
and technology. When we can do this in Ghana, we can do it in Nigeria and in
India and.... Spending time on this will have big benefits. The key factor
for success is and will always be that the people that use it feel that it
is THEIR Wikipedia, THEIR WiktionaryZ and THEIR MediaWiki.


Some links:

More information about the foundation-l mailing list