Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales leads South African Wikipedia Academies in Johannesburg
St. Petersburg, FL - October 31, 2007 - The Wikimedia Foundation, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, announced today that it will host Wikipedia Academy workshops in various locations throughout South Africa on November 10 and 11, 2007. Co-hosted by South Africa-based nonprofit organization, iCommons, the goal of the Wikipedia Academies is to stimulate the growth of the local-language Wikipedias in South Africa.
"Wikipedia versions are currently available for only 250 of the world's 7,000 languages. Establishing Wikipedias in more African languages will enable speakers of those languages to more actively participate in the global exchange of knowledge. Additionally, it may, in a small way, help to preserve those languages," said Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. "I ask people to consider donating to our current fundraiser, so that we can do more of this important work."
Jimmy Wales will deliver a motivational keynote at the beginning of each Wikipedia Academy. Afterwards, attendees will be coached in how to edit Wikipedia through various intensive workshops. They will also have the opportunity to meet Ndesanjo Macha – considered the father of the Swahili Wikipedia – who will share his experiences in sustaining local language Wikipedias.
The first event will take place at CIDA City Campus – the first free university in South Africa – on Saturday, November 10. It will launch a series of Academies supported by local business and media, with an Afrikaans Wikipedia Academy workshop taking place Sunday, November 11.
The South African Academies come in the midst of Wikimedia Foundation’s annual fundraising initiative, which runs from October 22nd to December 23rd. The fundraiser goal is to raise enough money to cover operating costs, and enable more Wikipedia Academies worldwide. For more information about the fundraiser, please visit http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Fundraising and http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Fundraising_FAQ.
Wikipedias in the South African languages are still fairly small. For example, the Afrikaans Wikipedia, which is the largest South African language Wikipedia, has slightly under 7,000 articles. Wikipedias in languages like Sesotho, Zulu, and Swati contain fewer than 100 entries each. Strengthening and growing the South African language Wikipedias will help preserve those languages, and the cultural knowledge of their speakers, for future generations.
Wikipedia Academy Program
The Academy will run from 9am to 1pm, and will consist of an opening address by Jimmy Wales and Swahili Wikipedian Ndesanjo Macha; hands-on training by South African Wikipedians, and a discussion led by Wikipedia Germany’s Frank Schulenburg about the culture of contributing to Wikipedia.
The workshop will run from 10am to 12.30pm with inputs from Lourens Cloete, Jimmy Wales and other Wikipedians. The workshop will look at challenges and opportunities for local language Wikipedias in South Africa, and develop a plan of action to grow these communities.
"Wikipedia Academy" was invented in 2006 when a group of Wikipedians staged the first Academy in the prestigious Göttingen State and University Library, one of the largest libraries in Germany. The goal was to coach students and professors in how to contribute to the encyclopedia, in order to increase both the number of articles and to improve their quality. Over a period of two days, more than 100 academics and students were treated to Wiki workshops and lectures. As hoped for, the event had many positive effects on the German Wikipedia; one of the most notable being the recruitment of a Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Science, who went on to write more than 250 Wikipedia articles.
Incubated by Creative Commons, iCommons is an organisation with a broad vision to develop a united global commons front by collaborating with open education, access to knowledge, free software, open access publishing and free culture communities around the world.