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The project aims at employ two Wikipedians in Residence (WiR) who will based in Ethiopia and Malawi respectively for a period of one year. The task of the Wikipedians in Residence, will be to work with a total of 11 arts, cultural, heritage and activist organisations each, over the period of 11 months (one institution per month, with the first month allocated to training). Each WiR will draw together existing Wikipedians, and encourage new individuals in order to activate a formal Wikimedia Chapter.
The two Wikipedians in Residence will: 1) establish a presence for the institution on Wikipedia through uploading basic biographic information; 2) begin the process of uploading existent data onto Wikipedia, whilst training members of the institution in the benefits of contributing to Wikipedia archival and on-going information about their organisation, and especially information about its core focus and its affiliated subjects; 3) create institutional systems to make the WikiAfrica project sustainable, and ensure the institutions’ online participation going forward; and 4) gather an energised and active Wikipedian community.
We hereby request funding from Prince Claus to train and employ the two Wikipedians, to be based in Malawi and Ethiopia respectively, as well as providing any expertise in these countries to ensure the successful implementation of the WikiAfrica Project.
Context and Justification
Wikipedia is a collaborative online encyclopedia that allows universal, multilingual access to information. Wikipedia aims to provide free content, and an objective and verifiable encyclopedia that anyone can add to, change and improve. Since its inception in 2001, Wikipedia has become a powerful tool that allows its users access to information on virtually any subject, and vitally, provides a country’s citizens with access to information about their country. Thus providing citizens of a country with the ability to truthfully represent their own historic and contemporary realities in all its complexities. Wikipedia has become a rich, dynamic and effective education tool that provides free learning materials and information. Use of this online encyclopedia continues to grow, as access to new technology (including cell phones and computers) increases in the developing world. Despite their global ambitions, the African continent is the least covered and supported collective of cultures, histories, ideas and languages on Wikipedia. Africa also has the fewest contributors per capita of any other territory. And yet, as more people across the continent access the internet via mobile technology (Africa is now the world’s 2nd largest cell phone market with 600 million phones being used daily), there is an imperative for Africa’s historic and contemporary realities to be truthfully represented. Access to information and the free flow thereof is a cornerstone of democracy, able to empower a country’s citizens. WikiAfrica seeks to contribute to freedom of information through availing information and knowledge, currently existent in institutions and organisations working in the fields of culturally-sensitive heritage and marginalised communities, by making contemporary, socially relevant information freely available online (a primary channel being Wikipedia). WikiAfrica aims to increase the quantity and quality of African content on Wikipedia by creating new articles, as well as expanding and enhancing existing content on Wikipedia about Africa and its people.
Information and Africa
In Africa, truthful contextual information contributed by Africans has the power to alter how Africans see, believe in, and interact with themselves, each other, their communities, countries and their continent. The true reflection of information, correctly placed on a platform that is open and accessible to all, will also fundamentally change how people outside Africa view and interact with the continent. If the wealth of information, the complex histories, heritage, ideas and contemporary cultures are truthfully represented, Africa can no longer be defined only by war, famine and crisis. Access to information enables and empowers, and is vital to democratic processes. With this in mind, WikiAfrica seeks to encourage institutions to make relevant information and knowledge freely available through Wikipedia primarily. Artists have the power to interpret and relay emotionally-arresting, poignant works that can an alternative view of contemporary issues. Similarly, heritage and activist institutions can correct misinterpreted or distorted histories by placing current issues into the correct historical and social context. Only through the free flow of information and readily accessed knowledge, can Malawians and Ethiopians be in a position to understand their pasts, their histories, and their rights. In turn, this knowledge will allow them to participate as full and equal citizens in their respective countries. Both Malawi and Ethiopia, as indeed in many countries in Africa, are inadequately represented both off and online, in terms of self-reflected histories, artistic and cultural practices, its people, and contemporary realities. In both countries, human rights abuses, ubiquitous attitudes (often violently enforced) against minorities and alternative sexualities, and challenges regarding freedom to information are widely reported. Although in Malawi, the accession of Joyce Banda to the presidency has provided hope that the situation will change, discrimination against women, LGBT community and smaller ethnic groups pervades society. In both countries, many of the discriminatory attitudes of society are shaped, incited and endorsed by the information relayed in state-owned broadcast and print media. Ethiopia is widely considered one of the world’s most restricted media environments. In 2012, Ethiopia was registered by Freedom House as one of three countries that exhibited the greatest declines in internet freedom since January 2011. This reflected intensified censorship, arrests, and violence against journalists and bloggers as the authorities sought to quell public calls for reform (a response to role played by internet based social media in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia). As the world’s most used online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia is a powerful tool that begins the process of correcting this one-sided imbalance of information by providing a balanced, neutral viewpoint. WikiAfrica therefore seeks to train 11 institutions in each country to create, add to and enhance information on Wikipedia, through a cohesive and collaborative effort. Through the co-ordinated approach adopted by the WikiAfrica Project, several vital institutions in these two countries will begin the process of making information and knowledge that is currently existent in archives, freely available. Thereby contributing to the process of democracy and freedom of information in both these countries. WikiAfrica fulfils the vision of the Africa Centre across the African continent by: celebrating the intellectual, visual and performance heritages of Africa; formulating innovative models for presenting, debating and encouraging cultural production and the pursuit of knowledge; providing broad access to the creative work and ideas of historical and contemporary African thought leaders and artists; and re-examining the role, identity, transience and creation of art and intellectual expression. [IE2] <#_msocom_2> WikiAfrica’s role in supporting the mandate of the Africa Centre to encourage and nurture African excellence includes encouraging access to knowledge, and the support of freedom to information, complements the directive of the Prins Claus Fund to encourage and nurture freedom of information and work against censorship by promoting the free flow of information and knowledge.[IE3] <#_msocom_3>
WikiAfrica Wikipedian-in-Residence Programme objectives:
Events and Activities (final products, participants, expected results and follow-up, promotion and audience):
Impact on Wikipedia:
A project was conceived by Isla HaddowFlood (WikiAfrica, at the Africa Centre) in 2013. The project and all its documentation is under Creative Commons attribution sharealike licence.
Project management by WikiAfrica at the Africa Centre. WikiAfrica is an international collaboration between the Africa Centre and Lettera27 that encourages individuals and organisations to create, expand and enhance online content about Africa, its history, its people, its innovations and its many contemporary realities, on the world’s most used encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. It is under the auspices of WikiAfrica that this project will be conducted.
The project has an extensive list of partners in the two countries. As they are officially signed to the project, they will be added to a list under this section.