India’s Indigenous Languages Drive Wikipedia’s Growth

India’s Indigenous Languages Drive Wikipedia’s Growth


posted 16 hours ago

Despite accommodating the world’s second largest English-speaking population behind the United States, it is India’s indigenous language speakers that are creating and consuming the content that is driving Wikipedia’s growth on the subcontinent. The Wikimedia Foundation last year issued a  $440,000 grant to the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), which, along with the local Wikimedia chapter, has trained almost 2,500 Indians how to edit and create content in their local languages. While the country’s official languages are Hindi and English (when the country earned its independence in 1947, the states couldn’t agree to be represented by a single local tongue) there are over a thousand recognised dialects, and 22 official languages spoken by over a million people.

Last September, CIS targeted ten tongues — Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi and Telugu — and started working with India’s Wikimedia chapter, responsible for coordinating the local volunteer efforts, to boost the amount of local language content being created on a range of websites including, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and WikiCommons.

CIS said that between September 2012 and April 2013 the number of page views increased by almost four million. Additionally:

– 13,400 articles were added in the top four languages, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi.- Page views on the 25,000 Bengali entries grew by 1.4 million to about 4 million.- There were consistently over 100 active Malyayam Wikipedia editors.

While each community used the platform for a different purpose there were three themes that cut across the different languages: cinema, places, and local personalities.

The training attracted people from all walks of life.

Tamil grandfather Sengai Podhuvan didn’t even know how to switch on a computer before the training, but the 78-year old has become one of the site’s biggest contributors; a blind man now edits Hindi Wikipedia entries; and Sujarta, a Chennai stay-at-home mum, who doesn’t speak English, now edits the Telugu Wikipedia between the hours of 11am and 3pm, when most housewives, who, like herself, did not go to university, are usually watching India’s colourful soap operas.

While the program has had an impact, director T. Vishnu Vardhan admitted there were some ominous findings. After CIS stopped supporting the Assamese Wikipedia in January 2013, the 20 active editors all but left the site.

“The decline over the last three months also alerts us to the possibility of building dependencies on the program, which is a concern that we need to address going forward,” Vishnu said. ”We need to ensure this community and new people are sustained, that we engage them keep and them interested by showing them the excitement of being part of open knowledge building.”

Ultimately, Vardhan hopes this capacity building exercise will spark a self-fulfilling cycle of local Wikipedia content production and consumption. These reach of these tools is growing as last month, mobile operator Aircel and Wikimedia India announced that subscribers could freely access, available in 19 Indian languages, from their mobile phones.

“Everyone is now Googling stuff but what if an ordinary Urdu-speaking guy sitting in Lucknow, using a smartphone, wants to learn about Delhi? Where is the content? While the majority of the population understands bits and pieces of English they’re not fluent in writing or reading and still need to access information in their mother tongue. This is where I personally see a huge potential for Indian language Wikipedias,” Vardhan said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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