*Techcrunch : "India’s Indigenous Languages Drive Wikipedia’s Growth"*

*Despite accommodating the world’s second largest English-speaking
population behind the United States, it is India’s indigenous language
speakers that are creating and consuming the content that is driving
Wikipedia’s growth on the subcontinent.

The Wikimedia Foundation last year issued a $440,000 grant to the
Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), which, along with
the local Wikimedia chapter, has trained almost 2,500 Indians how to edit
and create content in their local languages.

While the country’s official languages are Hindi and English (when the
country earned its independence in 1947, the states couldn’t agree to be
represented by a single local tongue) there are over a thousand recognised
dialects, and 22 official languages spoken by over a million people.

Last September, CIS targeted ten tongues — Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati,
Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi and Telugu — and started
working with India’s Wikimedia chapter, responsible for coordinating the
local volunteer efforts, to boost the amount of local language content
being created on a range of websites including, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and

CIS said that between September 2012 and April 2013 the number of page
views increased by almost four million. Additionally:
- 13,400 articles were added in the top four languages, Tamil, Malayalam,
Kannada and Hindi.
- Page views on the 25,000 Bengali entries grew by 1.4 million to about 4
- There were consistently over 100 active Malyayam Wikipedia editors.

While each community used the platform for a different purpose there were
three themes that cut across the different languages: cinema, places, and
local personalities.

The training attracted people from all walks of life.

Tamil grandfather Sengai Podhuvan didn’t even know how to switch on a
computer before the training, but the 78-year old has become one of the
site’s biggest contributors; a blind man now edits Hindi Wikipedia entries;
and Sujarta, a Chennai stay-at-home mum, who doesn’t speak English, now
edits the Telugu Wikipedia between the hours of 11am and 3pm, when most
housewives, who, like herself, did not go to university, are usually
watching India’s colourful soap operas.

While the program has had an impact, director T. Vishnu Vardhan admitted
there were some ominous findings. After CIS stopped supporting the Assamese
Wikipedia in January 2013, the 20 active editors all but left the site.

“The decline over the last three months also alerts us to the possibility
of building dependencies on the program, which is a concern that we need to
address going forward,” Vishnu said. ”We need to ensure this community and
new people are sustained, that we engage them keep and them interested by
showing them the excitement of being part of open knowledge building.”

Ultimately, Vardhan hopes this capacity building exercise will spark a
self-fulfilling cycle of local Wikipedia content production and
consumption. These reach of these tools is growing as last month, mobile
operator Aircel and Wikimedia India announced that subscribers could freely
access m.wikipedia.org, available in 19 Indian languages, from their mobile

“Everyone is now Googling stuff but what if an ordinary Urdu-speaking guy
sitting in Lucknow, using a smartphone, wants to learn about Delhi? Where
is the content? While the majority of the population understands bits and
pieces of English they’re not fluent in writing or reading and still need
to access information in their mother tongue. This is where I personally
see a huge potential for Indian language Wikipedias,” Vardhan said.*

Tinu Cherian

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