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Wikipedia woos India with local languages

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, November 19, 2011
First Published: 01:39 IST(19/11/2011) | Last Updated: 01:42 IST(19/11/2011)

Adding an article on a local Maharashtrian delicacy or making changes to an existing page on ‘Misal Pav’ on the Marathi Wikipedia could now earn you the title of the ‘Global Wikipedian of the Year’.


The Wikimedia Foundation has instituted an annual award for regular contributors and editors of the online community resource. “Regular contributions need to be acknowledged. From this year, the foundation will honour one Wikipedian for his effort,” said Jimmy Wales, the site’s founder, who addressed 700 Wikipedians on the first day of the WikiConference 2011 in the city on Friday.

This year’s award will go to a Wikipedian from Kazakhstan, most prolific amongst the contributors of his community. In 2011 the number of editors making five edits on the Kazakh Wikipage per day rose from 15 to 231, said Wales. The winner will get a direct entry to the next WikiConference with a fully paid ‘delegate pass’.

The WikiConference, organised for the first time in India this year by the Mumbai Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Chapter (India), saw a large turnout on the first day. “This is the largest Wikipedia conference that has ever been held. There are a lot of people in India indeed,” said Wales.

Wales said that the Indian page editors have experienced technical complications due to the lack of digital archiving and difficulty in accessing keyboards enabled with regional script. “The number of Indian language pages on Wikipedia is very small compared to the number of people who speak the language,” said Wales. “Globally, there are more than 35,000 Wikipedians, who make at least five edits on the English page everyday. However, in terms of numbers, the Hindi page is far behind with barely 50 Wikipedians making five edits daily,” he added.

Wales added that regional languages such as Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu have a great scope to grow. “In languages such as Latin, expressing an idea becomes difficult because the language is not commonly spoken and written. However, Indian languages are living languages, where expressing is a lot easier.”
Wales, who flew to Texas soon after the conference, said that Wikipedia is in the process of building a user interface as strong as Facebook.

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