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
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
"We are planning to partner with schools and come up with
appropriate versions of Wikipedia useful for children," Newstead
"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
"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
"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
"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)