December 04, 2007

The truth in numbers: creating communities

Wikiafrica The Wikipedia Academies, set up in Africa and India and documented in a forthcoming Wikipedia film The Truth in Numbers, reveal some of the reasons behind the success of Wikipedia.

There are 280m speakers of Hindi yet only around 14,000 articles written in the language on Wikipedia. On a trip to an Indian slum, where parents have to create their own schools in the absence of any government services, Jimmy had thought perhaps it would be useful for more articles to be published in the local language, Hindi. However, the parents, who pay handsomely and go through hardship to send their children there, are desperate for their children to learn English, as this is the way out of the slum.

On the other hand, the 'father' of the Swahili version of Wikipedia saw it as an opportunity to start documenting the oral history of his country and culture. Until that point stories were deemed not to "be true" unless they were written down. He was able to hand that power to the people by kicking off the home-language Wikipedia.

And although the net is exploding, it remains a huge challenge to get the most basic connections into areas like this, and the challenge of hardware, poverty and connectivity remain the basics if we are ever to achieve freedom of information to all.

This is why Jimmy has travelled to these places, trying to find nodes, or 'fathers' and 'mothers', who can work day in and day out to create content, build community, take ownership of their pages. These five or ten people then go out, thinking about their own connections to find nodes, and help build expertise in editing and managing Wikipedia, and achieving something for the good of everyone in their communities.

Who would the potential 'mothers' or 'fathers' in your community be? Could you set up an 'Academy' to get these nodes working for the good of the community?

Related posts: The Red Cross of Information

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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