Centre for Internet & Society
Konkani Wikipedia next?

The picture was taken at a workshop held by the CIS at St.Xaviers College Mapusa on Friday.

A quarter of the world’s Konkani speakers live in Goa. Which is why it should cheer us up to know that a Konkani Wikipedia is being shaped up. But unless more and more of us contribute, the project might never go online.

Konkani Wikipedia next?

The picture was taken at a workshop held by the CIS at St.Xaviers College Mapusa on Friday.

This article by Diana Fernandes was published in OHeraldO, the largest circulated English daily in Goa, on July 27, 2013. T. Vishnu Vardhan is quoted.

Konkani has never had its own Wikipedia site like Hindi (hi.wikipedia.org) or Sanskrit (sn.wikipedia.org). So the good news is that efforts are underway since 2006, the bad news is it hasn’t made any progress in the last seven years.

The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) is however hoping to change this. As part of the project being funded by the Wikipedia Foundation, San Francisco, CIS through their Access to Knowledge (A2K) programme plan to bring to life a full fledged Konkani Wikipedia site with the Devanagari script.

But Vishnu Vardhan, programme director, is quick to add, "This is no way trying to resolve the script issue. We are simply creating a place where people from the Konkani speaking community can contribute as well as read Konkani online."

Considering the complexity of the language, which is also written in Kannada, Malayalam and Perso Arabic, Konkani has many obstacles to over come before this project reaches fruition.

A balanced and practical approach of developing the content on the Konkani Wikipedia will be focused upon, say the organisers. For this, the A2K will look at generating content and build a community around the official Konkani script — Devanagari. Though they will also accept any other script, which will either be translated into the Devanagari script or remain as it is.

Speaking about the workshop, Vardhan says Goa was the perfect launch pad for the project. Among the 24 lakh Konkani speaking population around the world, Goa accounts for 6 lakh, the highest.

The CIS plans to have free lectures around the state to any interested group of people to spread the news of contributing articles related to famous personality, place, a cultural aspect, religion, history or sociology. But then comes the task of which script do people contribute in.

The current incubator has 52 Devanagari, 32 Romi and 2 Kannada articles. The project received its maximum number of edits in 2007 08 and has been reducing over the subsequent years.

The aim of the project is to get more articles. "Presently, we are telling people to simply contribute articles, whether in Devanagari or Romi. But since Devanagari is the state approved script, it is preferred in that script."

Vardhan believes that removing it from the incubation stage and having a live Wikipedia site will be a start. But for which he says, a community is necessary.

"Wikipedia is a community website and without one, there would be no exchange of information," he says. At present, the incubator has 86 articles but the aim is to increase this number with as many articles as possible.

Once armed with enough articles to go live, Vardhan says, the engineering department at Wikipedia can be approached about creating a multiple script converter that converts any of the scripts into any other desired one. The problem however is that there isn’t enough motivation and interest in the language itself.

"Only if the team at Wikipedia (US) sees the demand for different scripts in Konkani will they consider the multiple script converters," says Vardhan.

A similar challenge was faced by other wikis, like the Kashmiri Wikipedia, which used Pashto, Sharada and Devanagari scripts. Punjabi had the Gurmukhi script used in India and the Shahmukhi script that’s used in Pakistan. Solutions to them included an automatic converter, multiple writing system and creating separate wikis for each script.

CIS has also organised a Kannada workshop in Udupi for a Kannada Wikipedia. The other languages that the Wikipedia Foundation has asked them to work on are Telugu, Odia, and Bengali.