Context for the program
There is broad agreement in many circles within the Arabic speaking world that the quantity and quality of Arabic content available on the Internet is not meeting the needs of the ~350 million Arabic speakers worldwide.
Similarly, within the Wikimedia movement and among Wikipedia projects, Arabic Wikipedia has not taken its place as a large, high quality encyclopedia. While the project has made slow and steady progress, it has lagged behind other large languages, as it has not attracted a sizable contributor community. As of July 2011, Arabic Wikipedia comprised 150,000 articles, created and managed by 552 active editors. By comparison, Portuguese a language spoken by 290 million has 693,000 articles and 1,694 active editors as of July 2011.
During the Wikimedia strategic planning process in 2010, Arabic Wikipedia was identified as a priority for special efforts to help catalyze the growth of the project. The Wikimedia Foundation is interested in investing in the Arabic region as part of its five-year strategic plan.
The Arabic Language Initiative is focused on two complementary goals:
- Expand the community of contributors across the Arabic language countries who actively contribute to Arabic Wikipedia and other Arabic Wikimedia projects
- Improve the Arabic Wikipedia by improving the quality of articles and expanding the scope of subjects covered effectively
While quantitative targets are an imperfect measure of success, they are a helpful shorthand way to look at progress. The Arabic Language Initiative aims to support the growth on the following measures that are tracked monthly on Wikipedia Stats:
- Number of new editors
- Number of active editors
- Number of very active editors
- Number of articles (ideally the number that are greater than 2kb)
Over the next six months, we would like to work with the community to set some realistic targets for us all to measure our progress.
The Arabic Language Initiative is a partnership with the Arabic Wikimedia community. The initiative is intended as a means through which the Wikimedia Foundation can help the community grow and the projects thrive. This is an experimental effort as the Wikimedia movement does not have a set of proven programs that can guarantee the growth of a community or project. The Arabic Language Initiative (like the other catalyst projects) aims to identify programs that work in achieving impact goals. This will be useful both for sustaining the long term success of the Arabic language projects and will provide guidance for the development of other languages.
Specifically, the Arabic Language Initiative will focus on testing programs that:
- Help strengthen the editing community and the projects
- Enhance the new editor introduction process to help newcomers become active editors
- Develop newcomer support programs that enable coaching, help and mentorship
- Deepen means of establishing connections between Wikipedians to enhance the overall experience
- Create recognition systems that allow the community to show appreciation for great contributions
- Promote methods for people with poor standard Arabic writing skill to contribute to the Arabic Wikipedia.
- Connect the Wikimedia community into new networks, build awareness of the Wikimedia project and how they work to encourage contribution
- Explore models for generating quality contributions to Wikipedia as part of university course work
- Launch local community groups in places where there is very limited offline community activity
- Blend local communities to enable regional cooperation and vice versa (regional cooperation that supports local communities)
- Create specific outreach formats that are effective in both building awareness and encouraging contribution
- Partner with institutions that are focused on Arabic digital content to liberate content, explore new forms of outreach and editing programs, and develop Arabic language-specific tools that make contribution easier
- Assess the role of translation as a means of supporting projects
- Figure out how to work with partner NGOs and foundation to deploy and fund programs effectively
- Work with local NGOs to develop outreach programs that leverage existing networks that fit well with Wikimedia
- Develop relationships with foundations and other groups to fund regional program work
First year plan - July 2012 - June 2013
The Arabic Language Initiative will focus on the following areas in the first official year:
- Building a strong regional team of consultants to help coordinate program work (and successfully transition work from Moushira to the new team)
- Supporting local Wikimedia communities to create partnerships with local NGOs to conduct outreach and build local Wikipedia Education Programs
- Learning from the Cairo Education Pilot and likely expanding the Wikipedia Education Program
- Enhancing the new editor experience on Arabic Wikipedia and developing processes for attracting new editors through the projects
- Seeking ways to work effectively with the Qatar Computing Research Institute to ensure their Arabic digital content work helps support the long term success of the Arabic Wikimedia projects
A. Building a strong team
The Arabic Language Initiative will require a strong, agile team of people to coordinate the program work across the region in collaboration with the Arabic Wikipedia community and prospective partner organizations. The team will be small as it is critical that we do not build a big office that could risk undermining the central role of the community. The team will be augmented from time-to-time with additional consultants as needed. In addition, we intend to work with local partners in various countries to run programs to leverage their local knowledge and expertise. The role of the consultants will be to help design and launch pilots, capture learning and iterate, identify partners and work with them to implement programs effectively, monitor and evaluate programs and ensure effective communication within the community, with partners and with the general public.
Regional Program Consultant (Target start date: September 2012): The regional consultant oversees the work of the Arabic Language Initiative ensuring that the project is managed well and achieves its objectives. The consultant will facilitate partnerships between the Wikimedia Foundation and institutions (NGOs, Foundations, GLAM institutions,etc.) that add value to the Arabic projects. The consultant will ensure that the catalyst project approach is applied in all of the program areas of the Initiative and work with other consultants and partners to assure high quality execution. The consultant will be responsible for maintaining close collaboration with other Wikimedia catalyst projects and with the global development program teams in San Francisco. Most importantly, the consultant will need to become a trusted partner of the Arabic Wikipedia community and shall seek community ideas, input, support and feedback on program wok.
Education Program Consultant (Target start date: October 2012): The consultant will build from the Cairo Education Pilot and global Wikipedia Education Program experience to build education partnerships with university professors in the region to enable students to contribute high quality content to the Arabic Wikimedia projects. The consultant will identify partner organizations to work with in countries along with university partners and launch pilots (and ultimately programs) with these partners that combine learning from other WMF education programs and local education system characteristics. The consultant will set targets, monitor data on all education programs in the region, ensure problems are addressed quickly and cross-pollinate learning. The consultant will also create and cultivate a community of volunteer ambassadors to serve as coaches for students and professors in the program. This community should grow over time into a strong regional network of people who can ultimately take on the management of the program. Most importantly, the consultant will build a strong relationship with Arabic Wikimedia community members to ensure that the education program meets the community's needs and can be supported effectively within the community. The manager will be part of the global cooperative of people running the Wikipedia Education Program around the world and will be expected to share lessons from the region.
Partnerships and Outreach Consultant(Target start date: November 2012): The consultant will help build local communities of Wikimedians in the countries of the region and support them to build capabilities to conduct outreach work within their localities. The consultant will establish partnerships with local NGOs and other institutions who share the mission of Wikimedia and have the capabilities and networks to conduct outreach work with. The consultant will provide hands-on support and will conduct pilots that help determine the effectiveness of various approaches to outreach using data-driven analytical approaches to evaluating effectiveness. The consultant's work will also focus on partnerships to liberate Arabic language content for use in Wikimedia projects and on the internet. This would include working with legal partners to ensure that national copyright issues are addressed.
Communications and Program Support Consultant (Target start date: January 2013): The consultant will be responsible for communication management and coordination required to pursue program activities. Based on their programs of focus the communication person, will coordinate and assist with program research, design and maintain sustainable communication channels with the community, be responsible for reporting and assist with administrative tasks.
B. Building communities and partnerships across the region
The Arabic language region comprises a wide geographic area from Oman on the Indian Ocean to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean. The Arabic Wikimedia community is represented in all of these countries by contributors, but there has been virtually no effort to build local communities to build social ties and conduct outreach activities within localities. In January 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation in partnership with Arabic Wikipedians began an effort to help local communities come together and organize meetups as well as start to establish connections to like-minded NGOs, universities and GLAM institutions who might be good partners. As of April 2012, the team will have conducted initial visits to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, a pilot program in Cairo to encourage students to join student clubs and contribute to Wikipedia as an extra-curricular activity is ongoing and will conclude in June 2012.
The plan for the first year will be to follow-up the initial visits with supports for local community groups to start conducting regular meetups and experiment with outreach sessions within their locality. At the outset, the team and experienced community members will provide on-site support to help build capabilities. In addition, the team will seek out local NGOs to work with the local community to develop a sustained program of outreach work within the city or country. Wikimedia intends to provide grants to support these programs within the scope of the Arabic Language Initiative.
The student clubs outreach program will continue during the first year along side the program to build communities. Opportunities will be identified to support student leaders on-campus to create active clubs on ten campuses in the region. This effort will leverage global supports in place for student clubs.
By the end of the first year, we expect to have active community groups that meet at least quarterly in at least seven countries and outreach programs ongoing with partner organizations in three countries. Priority countries for community building include the six countries above plus Saudi Arabia. Syria, Libya and Iraq are all high potential countries with sizable populations, but activity there will require significant improvement in the security situation. In addition, there may be regionally-oriented opportunities in Qatar and the UAE.
For information about completed visits, see:
C. Expanding the education program
In February 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation launched the Cairo Education Pilot at Cairo University and Ain Shams University. The pilot is an effort to introduce Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia project) contribution as part of the classroom process of university courses. If successful, the plan during the first year of the strategy will be to expand the pilot within the two universities and to other institutions in Egypt and conduct pilots in 1-2 other countries in the region.
The Education Program consultant will be hired to coordinate the program. In addition, local NGOs or university groups may be brought on as partners to manage the programs in certain geographies.
For more information, see:
- Wikipedia Education Program
- Cairo Education Pilot Program Plan
- Classes Start in Cairo Pilot, 19 March 2012
- Editors stats Arabic Wikipedia
D. Encouraging editor growth and contribution
In April 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation's Global Development team created a new global program focused on Editor Growth and Contribution Program. The ultimate goal of the program is to raise the number of active editors on Wikimedia projects by understanding the needs of each project, and implementing solutions based on these needs. In particular we focus on small-to-medium sized Wikimedia projects, and we adapt an approach based on designing, testing, and implementing online programs. The program aims to increase the number of active editors on Wikimedia projects by working with the community to understand the online needs of each project, and taking a data-driven approach to implement solutions based on these needs. The pilots and programs on-wiki that Editor Growth and Contribution will use in order to encourage new editors are intended to serve as a compliment to off-wiki outreach activities already underway.
The first project that the program will work with is the Arabic Wikipedia. Over the first year of the Arabic Language Initiative, the aim for editor growth and contribution is to develop effective approaches to encouraging new editors to join Wikipedia and providing them with the supports needed to make valuable contributions. In addition, the team will work with the community to identify barriers to new editor contribution.
E. Partnering with QCRI (pending discussions with the community and QCRI)
The Qatar Computing Research Institute is eager to contribute to the growth of Arabic language content on the internet and to see the growth of Arabic Wikipedia. In October 2011, QCRI hosted a convening of Wikipedians along with Global Development staff from the Wikimedia Foundation in Doha at which time we agreed on potential areas of collaboration. QCRI has recently hired a program lead for their Arabic digital content program and will launch supportive programs in the first year of the Arabic Language Initiative. The Wikimedia Foundation team plans to advise QCRI on their programs and provide a bridge to the Wikimedia community and regional partners. Opportunities may include technical development of tools to support Arabic language contribution, a translation pilot program, research into community dynamics in Arabic Wikipedia and efforts to digitize and liberate Arabic content under free licenses.
The first year will be a period of learning for both Wikimedia and QCRI. We intend to maintain open lines of communication and seek regular feedback from the Arabic Wikimedia community.