[Foundation-l] Abuja Conference report

Florence Devouard anthere at wikimedia.org
Sun Sep 17 01:54:48 UTC 2006

Hello all,

This week, I was in Abuja (Nigeria) for the Digital World Africa 2006 
Conference - ICTs for Education and Development. I presented our 
projects, with a focus on "empoverment". Sj was also present at the 
conference, along with the OLPC team and made a very insightful talk on 

The conference was attended by possibly 300-400 people, most of whom 
where Nigerians. A big focus was given on OLPC (with a presentation by 
Negroponte), with Nigeria being announced to be one of the first 
countries to likely receive the laptops in the future.

The conference dealt with issues of
* Information and knowledge as human capital (this is where Sj and I 
* Practical realities in Bridging the Digital Divide
* Role of capital, institution building, entrepreneurship in promoting 
education and development
* Technical infrastructure (not surprisingly, the least nigerian panel)
* Local content
* Learning (I entirely missed this one)

I learned a lot from seeing how a conference was held over there and 
more generally, about social relationships. I reported some of my 
thoughts here 
I believe some of those specific cultural characteristics will probably 
be an issue in the participation of a project such as Wikipedia. The 
pyramid of age/position seems to be very heavy weight in all their 
activities (requirements of official agreement before doing anything. 
High respect due to position and age etc...). It will be hard to 
concilliate this with our flat-decision making system. However, I also 
felt a huge desire to become active and to comment things.

Amazing moment though was the panel about local content. Most of what 
has been discussed was of technical nature (the "content" was perceived 
as being "hardware to build"). The only person who really talk about 
"content" as text/image, simply explained that 1) creating content was a 
terribly painful and tiring and boring activity. As such it 2) required 
to be a for-benefit activity and 3) as is, needed serious protection in 
terms of copyright.
As far as I can remember, he was the only person to ever mention 
copyright issues. His presentation was quite depressing :-)
This said, later, a woman went to see me and blessed us for the projects 
and what we are doing. I felt very moved from an emotional point of view.

Most of those people are currently struggling to simply have computer 
and internet, issues such as "open source", "filtering internet for 
kids", "cybercrime" (Nigeria being the highest in terms of cybercrime), 
do not seem to be yet on their plates.

As usual, I asked in the room who knew about the project and I probably 
do not need to say that the number of hands were amongst the lowest I 
have ever seen. Maybe 1/5, probably less. And most being the 
international visitors...
A government employee came to see me and said he had used Wikipedia, but 
never realised he could edit it.
To make it short, this conference probably united the most technically 
advanced people from the country. People amongst the few with nearly 
unlimited computer and internet access. They are english speaking 
people. They work on ICT issues. And YET, most had no idea of our 

This suggests to me that one of the first thing we can do to increase 
our audience over there is precisely being present at such conferences 
to spread the word.

A couple of journalists attended the conference. I highjacked one of 
them (who knew the project), working for specialised (technical) press 
and "sold" him an article. We agreed to come in contact after the conf, 
with developers input as well, and to have an article on Wikipedia in 
his journal.

I also talked with many NGO, some being quite big. And potentially a 
good way to increase awareness.

Another cool thing was to actually identify good and interesting 
speakers or people we could invite to assist Wikimania next year.

Last, we talk about a project, which was presented at Wikimania, Wiki 
voices. The idea is to list all languages spoken in Nigeria (over 250) 
and to describe each of them. To define texts, to be recorded in top 
quality in all those languages (the concept of merry christmas and happy 
new year of Gerard and Sabine). It seems it could fit both in wiktionary 
and to be a basis for a wikibooks. A clearer proposal should be written 
in teh next few weeks, but would have to need to be approved by the 
Nigerian gvt before any implementation.

This project would be both a cool way to bring content and one to get 
more people to know about the project.

Overall, I was quite happy of the various outcome of my visit. It was 
worth it and helped me understand what would be good to do to expand our 
visibility over there, as well as participation rates... but also to see 
what barriers we are likely to meet.

An old reference

Some time ago, I also talked to you about a project I first heard about 
2 weeks ago in Geneva 
Since I was going through Geneva again to come back from Abuja, I took 
one additional day to talk more in length about the RAFT project.

It is very likely to be started in january 2007. The concept is simply 
to make a wikibook (in french) related to tropical diseases and various 
ways to handle these deseases according to cultural and geographical 
areas. The book would be in particular written by medical professional 
staff (but it is perfectly understood it will be open to others as 
well). During fall, one or more coordinators will outline the content of 
the book and gather the information to be made available to future 
participants. Then, just before a conference in Bamako, a training 
session will occur, with participants from Mali and others countries 
being presented the project and the wiki way.

I really look forward this project to happen (the organiser seems 
reasonnably confident it will occur as of today), as it would both mean 
a foot in several african countries and local content of quality.


At the same time, I have discussed with the CEO of the HonCode (first 
system of accreditation of medical information on the net). The 
accreditation system is designed to label sites respecting a certain 
code of deontology. Wikimedia projects can not currently get the HonCode 
accreditation because of one unique element we can not respect 
(identification of authors :-)), but the organisation would be 
interested in crafting a Code for collaborative wiki systems. See 
http://www.hon.ch/ for further reference.



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