The Africa Project

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

This page discusses a potential grant proposal for the Wikimedia Foundation. The underlying premise is that requests for grants should be project-specific, rather than simple requests for funding. This proposal can attract people from various international organizations, provide the Wikimedia Foundation with funding, and transform the Foundation into a charitable organization at the same time.

Broad discussion[edit]

The project comes to resolve the problem of inadequate educational materials in many African schools systems. During discussions with educators in Africa, it has been found that many schools continue to use textbooks dating from the colonial period. These books are outdated and prejudicial, and they are not in the students' native languages, making the education process more difficult for students.

The idea is to translate 5,000 basic Wikipedia articles into various African languages. These articles would then form the basis of new resource that a student can make use of in their own language. The articles would be made available online and on CD-ROM. Students will be encouraged to edit and add to the existing online database, so that they will be creating their own sources for learning.

The basis for this translation project will be an expanded version of the List of articles all languages should have. The articles will be translated by African students, who will be paid for their work. One of the main reasons that we have so few African contributors is that the countries are poor and university students have little leisure time to work on projects like Wikipedia, when they have to support themselves. Using grant funding to pay for the translations (at African rates) will help them pay for their university education while contributing to Wikipedia at the same time.

Once basic Wikipedias have been created, the Wikimedia Foundation will work together with organizations that contribute computer hardware to schools in Africa. This will ensure that students have access to computers and to Wikipedia materials.

Finally, the project has a number of advantages for the Wikimedia Foundation as well. It will attract funding, push us to improve existing articles for translation, and foster cooperation with other international organizations. Both English and French (as well as Spanish and Portuguese) Wikipedias can be involved in this project. Over time, the participants in Africa will expand articles and write new ones on local topics in there languages and in English/French, thereby expanding the amount of information we have on Africa, which is currently rather limited. Finally, it can fulfill the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation by making knowledge free and accessible to those who really stand to benefit from it.

Refactored discussion[edit]

Translating wikipedia into African languages

Initial languages[edit]

English --> Swahili and Luganda.
If this succeeds, add more. We already "have" a swahili wikipedia (45 arts). (3,723 arts. on 30th of april 2007; 6000+ 1th of december 2007) Later extensions: the same thing can be done in French-speaking Africa as well;

  • French --> Bambara (131 arts. on 30th of april 2007)
  • much of the work can be reused for projects in other languages.
  • A "simple French" Wikipedia would probably be a good starting point for the translation, or could possibly set up at the same time.
Looxix: "ask Yann about French involvment in this project, to reach french-speaking countries in africa"


Pay students in Makerere university to translate 5000 articles.


  • AE friends
  • butterfly works in the Netherlands
  • a company in France or Sweden that donates second hand computers to African schools

Target countries[edit]

  • Uganda (contact in ugandan ministry of education who would ensure that it gets to the schools [really? hard to be sure. --Ed]), where almost all the text books are from the colonial era, so Wikipedia would be a real source of education that students can add to.
  • Kenya (Danny just happens to have connections in kenya and uganda through butterfly works; Sj has connections in kenya)
  • (Mali, Guaka)
  • Togo - Half the country speaks Ewe (which is also spoken by a large number of people in southeastern Ghana). The official language of Togo is French but many do not speak French only Ewe. The Spokane Outreach Center has outreach ministry to Togo and several that can translate. I would like to see this project get started.


18 months; components can happen simultaneously.


A pittance by American or European standards...

  • $50k for translation, editing, oversight?
  • A high-interest project; easily worth that in grants


  1. We would first improve the en or fr articles before translating.
    • based on an expanded version of our list of 1000 articles every language should have (expanded five-fold); making sure all of those articles are feature-level
  2. acquire funds to pay for this expansion as well?
  3. broad request for input, as for a wikibook, on the outline
    • quick passes at the entire corpus, while preparing grants.

Potential Trouble[edit]

  1. no good article list yet.
    • articles may be too Euro/US-centric. a basis for a list, but only a fraction of a balanced, NPOV 5000-article list, exists.
    • (however, one could start with the Wiki Project Med's set of articles for translation; see Wikipedia:MEDTRANS)
  2. few top-level arts (like those in the front of an atlas) for the mesh of topics
  3. little specific focus; each detailed topic has sporadic quality and many gaps. most needed is focus on individual wprojects, feedback loops from third parties who know what the result should look like, and raw content creation.
    • particularly weak areas : biology, fish & insects (mav and danny know about this but haven't written on it, for instance)
    • "how about asking people to work on certain things?" what projects do. a second step.

Side Benefits[edit]

  • Help students pay for their education.
  • Expect students to improve our Africa information and photos, which are rather meager

Example projects[edit]

  • Wizzy Digital Courier, (South Africa); (Andy Rabagliati, - installs local wikipedia snapshots into township schools with poor or expensive connectivity
  • SW New Hampshire rural schools using WP (thanks to Jay Bowks <jjbowks at> ), both on wikipedia-l June 2004
  • Bambara Wikipedia, 500 CFA (1 US$) paid per article (of sufficient size) Guaka
  • many more. translation project at U. Hawaii; translation & research projects via Fuzheado in HK; see mailing-list and VP archives for more; particularly on non-en: projects

Related projects[edit]

Extra impetus for wikibooks, wikiversity.

  1. help launch wikiversity because we can offer online courses based on wiki material
    • draw people into wikiversity, independent of wikibooks... this project may be the impetus (since we'll be using the 5k articles to produce at least one useful book; and will have an audience in need of some practical texts
    • develop wikiversity projects to teach the basics of useful trades: electricity, auto-mechanics, (both with 3D renderings of course), computer graphics, translation ... (There are currently teachers and w'ans interested in a translation project, training translators on wp articles; cf also mav's and danny's ideas about partnering with uni language depts for translation, in and out of africa)
    • see for a recently-accredited online uni... also, MIT open courseware
  2. wikibooks: final result will be a (small set of) book(s).
    • partner with unis to help with topic-detail?
    • if other books are being developed at wikibooks out of these articles, we can get funding for wikibooks as well.

Other ideas[edit]

Illustrated templates for "Duden" style articles. The advantage is that useful articles with minimal text content could be quickly generated in many languages, and that such content could be accessible by students, neoliterate adults, etc. (printed, if not onscreen). See Wikiduden


Focus on this one project[edit]

Dealing with translators, educators, universities, topic experts (to make the articles really good), article-coordinators (to flesh out the 1000 articles into a good and impressive mesh of knowledge), copy writers (for producing grant collateral), layout experts (for making related wikibooks and project pages look good) -- we should get one external project down pat before looking for more work.... and Africa is so sexy, even the NEH has a special category for it. We shouldn't be looking for more than one core fundable project; we have little enough organized effort as it is. +sj+