Grants:Project/Rapid/Building Swahili Wikipedia and Wikimedia community in Tanzania – East Africa/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Rapid Grant approved in FY 2016-17 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.


Did you meet your goals? Are you happy with how the project went?

I had to change my original plans considerably. First of all I did not go for a shorter (ca. 4 week) full-time-Wikipedia trip to Tanzania but for 3 months of part time work as a stand in at Dar es Salaam. This left less time for travel but more time for working on wikipedia related matters in Dar. As also my air fare was on my job, and there was less travel thus the overall cost of the project came down to a third of the estimate.

Secondly my original plans were held up because of health matters; I had to spend March in Germany which I had intended for Tanzania and only could travel in the first week of April. A consequence of this was that my appointments at universities in Moshi and Mbeya did not work out and could not be rearranged considering my time frame at Dar. In the end also the Catholic University in Morogoro did not come back too me after 3 deferrals from my side.

The matter of astronomy related content and terminology grew to unexpected dimensions which I consider a very positive outcome. The trip to Morogoro Alfagems school was worthwhile as there is a teacher who continues to advise students in spite of the high turnover as is is at a secondary school. Work with the Daruser group was good and rewarding.


Please report on your original project targets.

Target outcome Achieved outcome Explanation
1. Recruit new editors A) Daruser Group (university students at Dar es Salaam) started editing and continues
B) Alfagems (Morogoro secondary school) users freshly motivated, some new editors joined
I started working with the Daruser Group which had formed in December 2016 during a visit of Jack Rabah (cf, had met several times but had not started editing in the mainspace (only 1 -female!- user had contributed to 1 article on enwiki) up to March. During my delay I started coaching 2 members of the group online in March and found a lot of uneasiness about what they could and could not do. From Mid April to July I met with the group for editing sessions 7 times morning - noon and one day until evening for an editathon. I saw more people in the sessions, 12 of them edited in double digits, 2 in triple digits. My global account information gives 871 edits for that group, 591 on swwiki. Metrics give me for Cohort Daruser August 599 edits on swwiki and 386 pages created between 01. Apr and 08. Aug.

Alfagems users are the secondary school students at the school in Morogoro, started since the 2015 workshop. Our co-admin Riccardo enables them to use the computer lab. As a secondary school group they have a large change of participants but keep on getting new ones. They have quite a number of edits, contentwise often on basic levels but I see it as an important exposure. i could reach Morogoro by bus with very little cost and so it was a useful weekend with them plus the even for me more important chance to communicate directly with my co-admin Riccardo which is invaluable considering the online only communication we usually have to rely on.

2. Increase skills for existing editors = Daruser did not add mainspace content before, now they do. See above; the previous experience had not enabled them to contribute
3. Add or improve content see figures above. Amongst other topics we did entries on all Tanzanian members of Parliament. see above
4. raise awareness of Wikipedia / Wikimedia projects in Tanzanian educational institutions I had intensive discussions with directors and lecturers at TATAKI (Institute for Swahili Research at University of Dar es Salaam), with department head at the government Institute of Education (in charge of vetting school books), the head of dictionary edition at BAKITA (National Swahili Council of Tanzania), a presentation for MA Students at TATAKI and cooperated closely with Dr Jiwaji of the Astronomical Society of Tanzania where I could show how we do research to prepare articles for swwiki. This cooperation led to Dr Jiwaji and I being invited to the morning radio show of Radio One "Kumepambazuka Kiswahili" on July 8 where I could explain names of planets in Swahili as shown in swwiki. Through my editing of astronomy articles on swwiki I have been in contact with the chairperson of the Astronomical Society of Tanzania for ca. 3 years. My research on planet names in Swahili revealed confusion about these terms in school books and also the authoritative dictionaries prepared by TATAKI and BAKITA. I had communicated extensively about this by mail and during a previous visit and could use my time in Tanzania now to follow up on the matter. Dr Jiwaji of the Astronomical Society and I visited the named institutions (plus a major publisher) and discussed the problem, found (to me, surprising!) acceptance and showed how we handle the terminology at swwiki. I was then asked to prepare a short dictionary of astronomy by TATAKI and also by BAKITA. Currently I emphasize these topics in my editing and I am preparing a shortened version of my swwiki contributions for such a dictionary.

Update on 7 Okt (as report has not been reviewed yet) The edit numbers of the Daruser group was

  • Edits April-July (when I left) Sum 544
  • Edits by 23 Sept Sum 881
  • Edits by 7 Okt Sum 1841

Which shows that the group keeps on editing


Projects do not always go according to plan. Sharing what you learned can help you and others plan similar projects in the future. Help the movement learn from your experience by answering the following questions:

* What worked well? The academic contacts at University of Dar and BAKITA were beyond expectation. I found open doors instead of a skeptical reception I had prepared myself for. My entry with them was not wikipedia as such but the astronomical terminology in Swahili, I showed often up in tandem with the chairman of the Astronomical society (a physics lecturer) and had ample opportunity to show how we work at wikipedia on these topics. Via the wikipedia library research network I had unearthed the authoritative (and probably only) source on traditional terminology in Swahili for stars and planets which was not known to my interlocutors but readily accepted. In the discussion about a smaller astronomical Swahili lexicon on astronomy the proposal to start with a list of terms coming from the Meta-list of " List of articles every Wikipedia should have/Expanded (astronomy)" as a base for choice of topics was readily accepted. As it is in Africa, we will see what comes out of that.

The work with the Daruser group went well, too. I had a group of less than 10 quite enthusiastic students meeting and working. Very positive was also the readiness of Goethe institute Dar which I proposed as a venue after seeing that the internet at Buni innovation hub, where they had met before, was often interrupted. The contact had been arranged via Isla at Johannesburg thru Goethe there for which I am really grateful.

We did the Editathon at Buni which is a better venue for a full day and evaded the connectivity problem by hiring a router and bought separate airtime for the event.

* What did not work so well? The cooperation with Stephen and Muddy did not work out. Steven could not return to Dar as he had planned. Muddy was in his work schedule whenever the Daruser group met and could only participate in the editathon as it took place on a public holiday.

The downside of better internet at Goethe was a smaller group at meet-ups because participants had to spend more in city transport fare to reach the venue compared to Buni Hub where internet was not so reliable.

The meeting with M.A.-Swahili students at TATAKI could only be a presentation as my request to come with laptops had not been communicated so we could not proceed to edit exercise. The timing was too late into the term schedule so we could not go for another meeting. This meeting had not been preplanned as it grew out from the discussions with the lecturers at TATAKI.

Technical problems remain a recurring problem in the Tanzanian context. We were lucky only to have a few brief power cuts, which were nevertheless a nuisance during some sessions.

* What would you do differently next time? I hope to have the opportunity to return to Dar next year and stay there for a while. There I would go for a group at TATAKI and also explore the opportunities at other Dar universities.

If this relocation to Dar does not work out I would approach WMF for a renewed visit of a month's duration but concentrate on Dar es Salaam. Moshi is a second option.

On the technical side I would check if the purchase of a mobile router (to be used with a Tanzanian sim card) is an option under the cost aspect.


Grant funds spent[edit]

I received 800 USD of the approved amount because it was already clear that my stay in Tanzania would be different from what I had planned for. I used altogether Tsh 1.133.244 which is (at the rate of 2230 Tsh/1 USD) 508 USD and still retain 100 USD to be paid for the item "1 year internet connection for user:Muddyb"; this was planned in the context of the donation of 1 laptop from WMF which could be sent only after my return and still has to arrive at my place for further transport to Tanzania. After communication with WMF / Morgan Jue I spent € 25,80 for a battery pack to be sent to Tanzania.

So my balance is 800 - 608 = 192 USD less € 25.80 = 30USD, so this leaves a balance of 162 USD which I will return. I received instruction to send these to the JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., London.

I used the money for (amounts in Tsh):

  • 187.000 Uber / Taxi / Bus fares
  • 73.244 for snacks and soidas for 6 editing meetups
  • 240.000 purchase of multiplugs for meetups at Goethe and airtime for
  • 273.000 Tshirts for editors
  • 360.000 Wikimeetup Editathon Buni catering

*1.133.244 Total expenditure in Tanzania

Plus € 25.80 for the battery pack.

Remaining funds[edit]

Do you have any remaining grant funds?

My balance is 800 - 608 -30 = 162 USD which I return by todays rate ( as 137 Euros.

Remaining funds from this grant have been returned to WMF in the amount of 137 EUR.

Anything else[edit]

The project went different in several ways from what I had originally planned but was surprisingly successfull. I am impressed by the open doors I found at institutions of learning where I believe the perception of wikipedia has changed in a positive way among the people I could meet.

I had never expected to end up in the radio show of the National Swahili Council where I could explain the results of my years of wikipedia related research on the planet names in Swahili. The invitation to do an astronomy lexikon for the university will -if completed- lead to the adaption of sw-wikipedia content in an academic publication. I am working on this, first by writing the content into swwiki. Even though star constellations and other astro-content is not the hottest stuff for our general readership it still results in adding valuable content.

The Swahili user group still looks motivated and they have so far continued to meet and edit. They would like to register a user group and I have encouraged them to keep on editing in order to get the required quantity of edits.

Meeting the group at Alfagems was also very rewarding. I learned that secondary school students in East Africa are not the ideal target group for recruiting editors because of the short time they stay at a school; but with a committed teacher like Riccardo plus some infrastructure boarding school it is obviously an environment where constantly new kids show up to try, and again and again soem real talents show.

The networking as a result of our Wiki Indaba meetings was very helpful because this opened the door to the Goethe Institute at Dar which was a good place because of higher reliabity of their connection.

And I am very glad that I had the chance to meet again with my fellow admins MuddyB at Dar, Riccardo at Morogoro and ChriKo at Nairobi (when I had to go outside the country for a renewal of my Tanzanian visa). It may still take some time until the young people of Tanzania run the swwiki show on their own, until then it is important that we old guys keep the project going.

At the moment I still have an open window to return to Tanzania to live there for a few years and will know in the coming 2 months if it works out. If so, I will be happy to keep on working with students and will knock again at the door of WMF.