Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opportunities, equal for all

When we write our #Wikipedia articles, we are all volunteers. We are given the same opportunity to write in our own language and all our efforts are needed to realise the aim of the Wikimedia Foundation i.e.: "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment".

The Wikimedia Foundation is responsible for the MediaWiki platform. MediaWiki provides support to many languages; the group statistics at translatewiki have currently 337 entries. Most languages are in the Latin script and these are reasonably well supported. Many other languages have a problem; their script can have debilitating issues that prevent Wikipedians writing their articles with the same ease that is considered normal for the English language.

The native languages of the Indian subcontinent all have a problem. The effect of the script issues can be best appreciated by comparing the Indonesian Wikipedia and the Malayalam Wikipedia. Their number of contributors is roughly the same but the output of new articles in Malayalam is quite different and consequently the traffic it generates is much less.

BBC support for Hindi
for mobiles
When India and with it explicitly the Indic languages are part of a new strategy, the direction is decided. What is not decided is how you get there, the new roads you will have to travel and the companions you will meet on the way. The BBC supports Hindi on mobile telephones by showing texts as images and while this may suffice for readers of Wikipedia for editors this is just not good enough.

When the WMF is serious about an India strategy, it will  take ownership of the issues and tackle them. It can partner with other organisations but it cannot abandon its requirement for a solution. As the WMF is the 500 pound gorilla of the Free Content world it can partner with governments, with standard organisations and the developers of operating systems for mobiles and computers to make the difference that is needed to realise a working strategy for the Indic Wikipedias and for India.
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