*Why It's Essential To Grow Indian-Language Wikipedias*

On 15 January, Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia celebrated its 15th
birthday, meeting this milestone with 36 million articles in more than 290
languages (the English-language Wikipedia alone has crossed the 5-million
article mark
But here I want to address some major questions that we need to ask as
Indians. First, what is the state of Indian-language Wikipedia projects?
What does India have to take from and give to Wikipedia?

With the growth of free and open source software in India, people are
equipped with more freedom than ever.
<http://www.gndec.ac.in/%7Elibrarian/sveri/dbit2306009.pdf> Especially with
the recent federal policy-level changes
the nation is enjoying better collaboration with people of different
cultures speaking different languages.

However, there is a huge gap in the access to knowledge on the internet
domain. Of a population of about 1.26 billion only about 15-18% people are
connected online, largely from mobile devices. A tiny fraction of this
population comprises the technical community. It would be useful to have a
metric on the percentage of this community's contribution to grow the
languages of this country and its cultural heritage.

*Wikipedia as a family*

Wikipedia is not just an encyclopaedia. It is also a "family" of several
other Open Knowledge members. Wikipedia itself is available in over 290
languages, but it also has other multilingual sister projects such as
Wikisource (an online library of many public domain and other important
texts), Wikimedia Commons (the world's largest repository of media files
and documents), Wikibooks (a free library of educational textbooks),
Wikivoyage (a free and open travel guide) and Wiktionary (a database of
various languages).

These projects don't just house millions of images, videos, documents and
texts, but allow anyone to contribute their knowledge to this ever
deepening pool of information. Four Indian languages made an early entry to
the Wiki-world back in 2002 -- Assamese <http://as.wikipedia.org/>,
Malayalam <http://ml.wikipedia.org/>, Odia <http://or.wikipedia.org/> and
Punjabi <http://pa.wikipedia.org/>.

*Language neutrality*

According to UNESCO, 197 of the total of 1652 Indian languages are dying
despite having a long literary and linguistic heritage. It's quite
shocking. In a blog post
<https://opensource.com/community/14/7/save-endangered-language-today> on
content localisation, social entrepreneur Rajesh Ranjan asks if free and
open source software can help save these dying languages. In the context of
Wikipedia, there are already 23 South Asian-language projects. Out of these
20 are languages listed in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India.
Many might not have noticed that the "en" in the URL of Wikipedia that
denotes the language code of English could be altered with "or" for Odia
Wikipedia or "pa" for Punjabi Wikipedia.

Most Wikipedia projects in Indian language projects are relatively small
compared to their counterparts. But the Wikimedia communities are thriving

When only parts of government websites are available in Hindi, the Hindi
Wikipedia has crossed 10 million articles already. The Tamil and Malayalam
Wikipedia communities have played a central part in implementing Wikipedia
basics learning in the state-run school syllabus. Needless to say that
these communities have played a significant role in implementing several
free and open source software by pushing for policy-level change. Many
Indian languages are in the pipeline to become active Wikipedia projects
under the scope of the Wikimedia Incubator

Maithili Wikipedia
and Goan Konkani Wikipedia
<http://blog.wikimedia.org/2015/07/15/konkani-wikipedia-goes-live/> are the
two Indian-language Wikipedias that have gone live in recent years. The
world has seen how digital activism has brought a new life to the Hebrew
language. There are a fairly large number of native speakers waiting out
there to access knowledge in their own languages. Wikipedia could be a
great tool for digital activism with openness and sharing.

*Addressing gender bias in Wikipedia: Implications for India*

India tops South Asia in the gender inequality index
in the entire South Asia. The female literacy rate is an alarmingly low
65.46% <http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2009/en/pdf/EN_SOWP09_ICPD.pdf> as
compared to 82.14% for men. This disparity is evident in many other sectors
as well as in politics.

But gender bias is not just a problem in India. The global free and open
source software (FOSS) community has always been worried about the low
presence of women
contributors -- in the range of 2-5% range.
<https://people.cs.umass.edu/%7Ewallach/talks/2011-04-05_JHU.pdf> Wikimedia
Foundation's former executive director admitted that Wikipedia, like many
other collaborative and open projects, does not have a conducive
environment for women. But the Wikimedia community and Wikimedia Foundation
are both working on improving this state of affairs. Indian-language
Wikipedia projects are directly impacted by this global drive, be it the
Women's History Month edit-a-thon where Wikipedia content largely related
to women are improved every year or the Lilavati's Daughters project
biographies of Indian women scientists were created and enriched in
Wikipedia projects.

*Complementing Digital India*

With a population of over 354 million
netizens India still has a long way to go in increasing Indian language
content on the web
The Government of India's new campaign Digital India
<http://www.digitalindia.gov.in/content/vision-and-vision-areas> aims
at digital
literacy and availability of digital resources/services in Indian languages
<http://www.cmai.asia/digitalindia/>. This is closely aligned with the
Wikimedia movement's goal to provide free access to the sum of all human
knowledge. In addition to Wikipedia, many other open educational resources
and free knowledge projects that are not already a part of the Digital
India campaign signal the need for the federal-run campaign to be more
collaborative and open. Community-government collaborations like the NROER
to make NCERT books under Creative Commons licenses and IT@School project
<https://www.itschool.gov.in/glance.php> in the state of Kerala to provide
education using free and open tools have gained massive traction and helped
more Indian language content come online.

by Subhashish Panigrahi (original text under CC-BY-SA 4.0 by author and
editions copyrighted by the editor of the Huffington Post India, available
online at

Subhashish Panigrahi
Programme Officer, Access To Knowledge
Centre for Internet and Society
@subhapa / https://cis-india.org
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