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Grants:TPS/Pgallert/e-Learning Africa 2015/Report

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Event name


e-Learning Africa 2015

Participant connections


To be frank, I haven't met so many annoying people in just three days. That specifically pertains to the exhibitors at the conference venue who, almost invariably, reinvent the wheel in some way to put behind proprietary specifications and paywalls material that already is available for free. Special greetings in this regard to the Professor who drags a few hundred Rand per month from thousands of poor young Africans to give them access to substandard material and unaccredited degrees. But an honourable mention also goes to that German software engineering firm that charges Governments millions of US$ to create a dictionary from English to one single African language. They acquired a lot of new business in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union headquarters where the conference took place. 'Annoying' also includes our (African) politicians who fall for such schemes and on top of that now work on Agenda 2063. Eventually they can be sure to be six feet under once my grandchildren complain about non-delivery.

That aside, I met not only one, but two Wikipedians at that conference, that's 100% more than I expected, knowing that TFlanagan-WMF (talk · contribs) would attend. Tighe organised a pre-conference workshop there for about 30 people. I attended this workshop and hopefully did not dominate the discussion too much. My own presentation was attended by a little less than 100 people. I got relevant questions suggesting that some of the attendees payed attention to the talk.



I edited Grants:Learning patterns/Training educators how to use Wikimedia in the classroom to add my presentation slides - teachers not only have to learn the Wikisyntax.



(Stating the currency in which I paid: NAD = Namibian Dollar, ETB = Ehtiopian Birr, ZAR = South African Rand, and USD)

I have emailed all receipts to the WMF Grants Administrator. The receipt for the visa fee is a bit strange, as it acknowledges that I bought 30 USD foreign currency, while I actually gave them 30 USD. I have also copied the business visa so that you see that I obtained it. Hope this is sufficient.

Approved expenses

  • Participation fee: 5,365.50 NAD
  • Return flight Windhoek - Addis Ababa: 14,483 NAD
  • Accommodation for five nights: 8.670 ETB
  • Visa fee: 30 USD

Unapproved expenses


As I expected, dinner was not included in the conference fee, even though the web site said otherwise. Wednesday night saw a speaker's reception, the other two days I paid myself. Moreover, lunch on Wednesday was only for VIP (and maybe workshop organisers). Together with a few incidental expenses I am sitting on quite a few bills and thought you might approve the one or the other:

  • Dinner Tuesday in the hotel (too late to go anywhere else): 230.99 ETB
  • Wednesday lunch: 92.98 ETB
  • Thursday dinner: 70.99 ETB
  • Friday dinner: 160 ETB
  • Long-term parking 5.1 days in Windhoek: 155 ZAR
  • Driving to the airport and back: 100 km x 3.5 NAD/km = 350 NAD

Amount left over


I had money left over from Grants:PEG/Pgallert/Indigenous_knowledge_for_Wikipedia_workshop which I used to pay these expenses. There is still quite something left - should I wait until the other grant report is approved?

Anything else

  • Presentation slides
    • Let me mention a little trick to have the presentation slides available under an open license: I first upload them on Commons and release them under CC-BY. Only then I submit them to the conference organisers. That's also when I alert them of the pre-release. Now they are in the difficult situation to either accept the license conditions, or to not publish a slide show that is available elsewhere, diverting traffic from their own site towards Wikimedia Commons.

Future ideas


Partly per Mjohnson (WMF)'s request on the talk page: The dialogue concerning free / libre knowledge, software, access, and online education is not very developed in Africa. Speaking as one of the earlier activists in this area, there still isn't any active community to speak of, and initiatives like Wikipedia or Open Street Map are carried by expatriates and tourists, not by the local, indigenous population. There is no public dialogue about, and no media coverage of, such initiatives. As a result Governments are used to paying millions of US$ to get access to resources. To cite my favourite essay title: Что делать?:

  • I remember that WMF is not supposed to be lobbying too much, due to their status as a charity. Nevertheless, in Africa, and particularly at the African Union, a bit of lobbying could go a long way. Nobody knows what we are up to. At best, the Wikimedia movement is seen as yet another competitor for government funds of developing African nations.
  • The cost for exhibiting at important conferences (those that are half-political and half-scientific, and where a lot of government delegations are to be expected) are not prohibitively high. A 12 sqm stall at e-Learning Africa would have set us back 3,500 EUR. Considering that we were present anyway (so tickets and accommodation were already paid), manning an exhibition stall might have been way more effective than delivering a talk and a workshop.
  • If we really want to have an impact we could utilise the situation that such conferences often are beyond boring. Hiring a keynote speaker who can deliver a lively oratory in support of free knowledge might just make all the difference. Imagine someone like Stallman addressing 1,000 African politicians on the advantages of open access---I'm not sure how good a presenter Stallman is and whether or not WMF could afford to hire him for such purpose, but that would make a dent, for sure. That would also be a worthy task for Jimmy Wales, if he finds the time.
  • I considered putting this as a learning pattern, but that would have been a bit pointy: I believe we need a separate appearance for readers with a prominent login/register button for prospective writers. Wikipedia's visual appearance is cluttered. New visitors do not see the edit button; it disappears in a plethora of small links that have no obvious meaning for non-editors. Educators do not see the notice that our content is free and re-usable. Ok, some of it isn't. Knowledge bearers do not see our invitation to them to join us. Oh, wait, that notice just isn't there...