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Wikipedia plans various initiatives in India

Friday November 18, 2011 07:08:56 PM, Mauli Buch, IANS

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Mumbai: India would be the focus this year for Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the multilingual reference website Wikipedia, with plans for several initiatives to make knowledge more accessible to the country's burgeoning Internet population, co-founder Jimmy Wales Friday said.

With the government's hopes of India having the world's largest Internet population of 600 million by 2016, the Wikimedia Foundation aims to build a base of Indian communities that will regularly contribute to Wikipedia's language reference sites, Wales said at the first-ever WikiConference in Mumbai.

The organisation looks forward to launch initiatives to bring together people socially and culturally, he added.

Elaborating on its initiatives in India, the foundation's chief global development officer Barry Newstead told IANS that the foundation aims to launch several initiatives to improve access to knowledge.

"We are planning to partner with schools and come up with appropriate versions of Wikipedia useful for children," Newstead told IANS.

"In another initiative, we plan to partner with numerous universities throughout India and have student become regular contributors to Wikipedia than just being readers," he said.

Started by Wales, Larry Sanger and others in January 2001, the website now hosts three million-odd articles in 268 languages, and has 450 million readers.

Asked if the foundation is looking to translate the three million odd articles in the English Wikipedia to Indian languages, Newstead said that it would be easier to build an Indian language Wikipedia.

"Translating from English to a local language is not only cumbersome, but it also might not reflect the same flavour. This is true for any local language," he said.

Newstead also spoke of several other initiatives where the foundation intends to partner with museums, state and national libraries and national photo archives for knowledge and information sharing.

"Museums and libraries are the biggest sources of information. Although they follow a traditional approach, we believe tapping them as primary sources will help increase our local knowledge base to a greater extent," he said.

"We are in primary talks with the Prince of Wales Museum (now renamed Chhratapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) here for sharing of information," he added.

Another project in the offing is referencing works of Wikipedia through oral citations.

Considering India has a huge set of information including folklores and old traditions and stories behind several spots across the country, oral citations might help build a knowledge base.

"There are several tales in India which are the basis of a larger tradition. But these are not documented and hence there are no written references to these interesting facts," Newstead said.

"We are looking forward to the project, where after setting down rules and policies, oral citations can be officially included as references in Wikipedia," he added.

Wikimedia also includes Wikibooks, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikimedia Commons and MediaWiki.

The three-day conference is being hosted at the 154-year-old heritage building of University of Mumbai campus in the Fort area of south Mumbai.

Just as Wikipedia serves as a quick general outline or base, and not the final destination for information, the Wikipedia Foundation hopes to use the Mumbai meeting as a foundation for its India expansion. Of the 100,000 worldwide Wikimedia contributors, only 3,000 are Indian.

(Mauli Buch can be contacted at






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