Eugene Kim has published his first instalment of a four part series on the different challenges facing the Wikimedia movement. As developing traffic from India is a strategic goal of the Wikimedia Foundation, and as Eugene has been so close to the strategy process it is relevant what he has to say.
China and India — India in particular — have extremely heterogeneous cultures, which complicates outreach. On the other hand, most Indians access and edit English Wikipedia as opposed to the native Indian dialects, such as Hindi. Increasing usage in India may require focusing on making English Wikipedia a more multicultural community as opposed to promoting the many Indic language Wikipedias.
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Focusing on making the English Wikipedia a more multicultural community is an extremely good idea. This will not only serve India well, it will serve the whole world well. People do not know where to find places like Albania, Kerala or Tripura on a map so subjects about these places are easily considered to be hardly relevant.
What makes the text extremely problematic is the selection of words. The Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu and the many other Wikipedias are written in languages. Calling them dialects demonstrates a lack of awareness that is painful after all the time Eugene spent among us.
The suggestion that it may be necessary to make a choice between promoting the use of the English language Wikipedia versus promoting the Wikipedias in Indian languages is not only unnecessary it is also a very bad idea. It is a bad idea because the Indian cultures are very much intertwined with its languages.
Effectively supporting the Indian languages is something that is feasible for the Wikimedia Foundation. The benefits are clear; it will clearly demonstrate the sensitivity needed to perform well in India. It will generate a lot of free publicity and goodwill and it will help us reach out to the disadvantaged and under represented communities.