Indic languages are undergoing an incredible revolution in the 21st century. These languages (communities of speakers and users) are encouraging its users to move from the idea of the language used for only communication to how languages can be used for production and generation of knowledge as well. This streak of independence and agency took up by the users of languages directly contributes to the ever-growing pool of information and resources available in this particular language. With the recent technological interventions having made typing, texting and using Indic languages across various tech platforms an easy task, language enthusiasts are exploring new projects and endeavours to contribute and grow their knowledge base.
Many of the Indic Wikimedia communities are making use of these technological inventions (Unicode, OCR, spell check…) to contribute articles and other kinds of content towards their projects. These efforts were typically individual efforts that were carved out of spare time. The community members continued to create and add articles at their own pace and without expecting any support from external agencies. While the rate of the growth of information and knowledge on the Indic Wikimedia projects grew slowly, the rate of access and visits has grown significantly high. These high numbers indicate two key behavioural changes in the way Indic language users are searching for information on the digital platforms:
- They are looking for content in Indian languages (specific searches on topics, people and places)
- The open access/edit policy of Wikimedia projects is a potential recruiter for Indian Wikimedia projects.
With the growing influence of the Internet and availability of devices that allow for an easy interface of accessing information on Indian languages, there is a tremendous opportunity for content in Indian languages to grow exponentially. Many major media establishments have realised the opportunity in this direction and have built or are on the process of building websites, online repositories of the print version of newspapers and magazines. Social media channels have also provided an opportunity for Indic language users to engage with Indic languages beyond the artificial level of pleasantries and business communication. There are blogs, portals and pages dedicated for discussions and writing around the themes of social justice, history, contemporary politics, entertainment…
Project Tiger phase 1
In 2017–2018, the Wikimedia Foundation and Google started working in close coordination with the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), Wikimedia India chapter (WMIN) and user groups to pilot a program encouraging Wikipedia communities to create locally relevant and high-quality content in Indian languages. This program (Code name: Project Tiger) aimed to
- support active and experienced Wikipedia editors through the donation of laptops and stipends for internet access and
- sponsor a language-based edit-a-thon that aims to address existing Wikipedia content gaps.
Project Tiger Phase 1 harnessed the potential of social media discussions, provided support to the volunteers who are already working in the Indic Wikimedia projects and aimed to build resources in Indic languages which can be used for purposes of research and building of knowledge.
This project tried to overcome three important hurdles that the Indic wiki community was facing:
- Infrastructure support
- Dedicated resources
- Harnessing data
The infrastructure support process was started a wide needs-assessment survey was conducted to understand the needs of the Indic Wikimedia community in ascertaining their infrastructure requirements that we can fulfill during the course of this project. This came as an incredible support for many Indic Wikimedians who are passionate about adding content but were unable to optimally contribute due to the lack of a dedicated machine. In the Indian scenario, owning a laptop is still an expensive proposition. Project Tiger with its infrastructure support has provided Chromebooks to dedicated Wikimedians who have been using their machines to engage in many Indic Wikimedia projects. While there is no doubt that the productivity, engagement and contribution levels have seen a sharp spike post the period of infrastructural support, this support has resulted in many secondary and tertiary advantages as well. Indic Wikimedians have coordinated many online and offline sessions that have resulted in community mobilisation, organisation of independent events and has also built new leaders with the increased activity.
An opportunity to provide dedicated resources was provided in the Project Tiger Phase 1. Selected Wikimedians were supported for a period of six months by providing them internet support. This internet support was customised and was aimed at empowering Wikimedians as per their requirements. This allocation of budget helped Wikimedians plan their activities well in advance and engage with other community members working or developing collaborative projects. Internet support has been very effective in the way Indic Wikimedians have been gathering information, participating in IRC channels for discussions and the increase in activity levels of Wikimedians. MediaWiki editor and Hindi Wikimedian User:Jayprakash12345 told:
After I got the internet access from Project Tiger I could download many large repositories like MediaWiki-Vagrant, whole MediaWiki Repo etc from gerrit.wikimedia.org and it helped me to do harder work in technical fields. You can see all of my work on here.
Indic Wikimedia projects have survived and expanded because of the interest of a few people who have been dedicated to the idea of creating content and keeping it open. This way of functioning meant that the committed volunteers worte and expanded articles that interested and excited them. With this contemporary and popular issues also were reflected on the Wikimedia projects. However there had been no analysis of the information that Indic language users were seeking and also no attempts were made to create content to cater to these specific needs. This method of marrying search and information was not taken up by many Indic communities during the initial period of Project Tiger. Lists of topics that were provided after the synthesis of such information were discussed by community members and a curated list which reflected the need for the community and interest of community members was carved out. It was this second list which enabled activities of content creation in form of edit-a-thons and label-a-thons.
Project Tiger edit-a-thon participants at Bhopal, India
An Indian Wikimedian gets support from the hardware donation program of Project Tiger
As part of the Project Tiger Writing Contest, we welcomed all communities and user groups to play an active role in outreach. One way this could happen by conducting onsite edit-a-thons in various cities inviting the local communities to gather for a day or two and write articles for the Project Tiger contest. We know that face-to-face onsite edit-a-thons might be a good way for the community members to meet and work on this contest. The Edit-a-thons were conducted in the following places:
- Bhopal: This Editathon organized in association with 'Regional Museum of Natural History, Bhopal' on 14 April 2018. This Editathon was organized by Hindi community members to develop the list of articles which were out up under this project.
- Bangalore : This Editathon was organized on 27 May 2018 at The Centre for Internet and Society office, Bangalore. Where people from different languages (Odia, Kannada, Punjabi and Telugu) took part in the event to make it a grand success.
- Chennai, edit-a-thon took place in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
- Delhi : This Editathon was Organised in Delhi on 10–11 April 2018 by Punjabi Wikimedians. This was a two-event among the series of event. In the contest, all the participating communities had come together and developed a writing contest focused on content gaps.
- Patiala Phase 1
- Patiala Phase 2 :This Editathon was organised by Punjabi Wikimedians in Punjabi University Patiala. By this event, they participated in Project Tiger Writing Contest to create and expand articles on Punjabi Wikipedia. In this event, we created 20 articles on different topics like Philosophy, Psychology, Political Personalities, Theatre, Museums, Oral Drinks and Entertainer People were created.
Barnstar for Project Tiger Ediatathon 2018 Final plus language labels
Banner of Delhi Project Tiger Edit-a-thon, May 2018
Winners for Project Tiger Writing Contest were declared month wise per each language.
Project Tiger Phase 1 has been a successful venture in the Indian context. It has achieved:
- Impressive Return on Investment
- Created a new line of volunteers, leaders and sparked off new projects
- Attracts new users (both as readers and editors) to the newly developed content.
The following table reports are the metrics of the participants who received the Infrastructure support such as Chromebook and Internet on behalf of this project:
|Laptop and Internet
|15 March -15 July
|Laptop and Internet
The following table reports the metrics of the edit-a-thon:
|New Page views
|Expanded Page views