Centre for Internet & Society
Wikimania 2013: Wikipedians represent Indian Languages in Hong Kong

Participants at the Wikimania 2013 in Hong Kong. (by Subhashish Panigrahi, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The 7th, 8th and 9th of August 2013 saw over 600 Wikipedians across the world participating Wikimania at Hong Kong. The three day annual international conference for users and contributors of Wikipedia brought many debates about open educational research, open source technologies, gender gap, documenting the history of mankind in a free and open platform like Wikipedia and its sister sites in collaboration with Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums and all of these in 286 world languages. More and more volunteers are joining this movement and it is expanding the media of accessing and disseminating knowledge.

Here is a school teacher who lives in Salem, a small industrial town in Tamil Nadu. There lives a school teacher who was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Hong Kong long back. They have never met in real life but have been helping in correcting each others mistakes in Wikipedia articles. These two school teachers have taken their knowledge from the four walls of the classrooms to a larger audience of Tamil Wikipedia. I then realized how language brings people together. This is what I heard from my inner voice when I met S.Parvathi from Salem and H.K.Arun from Sri Lanka during Hong Kong Wikimania 2013, an annual gathering of Wikipedia contributors.

Many still are not aware the existence of Wikipedias in Indian languages. There are 20 South Asian language Wikipedias with more than 2 lakh articles contributed totally by about 1500 voluntary contributors in all these languages. There are hundred more contributors like Arun and Parvathi who create new articles in Tamil Wikipedia, and rectify mistakes by new contributors.

Wikipedians are all volunteers who devote their time for building the greatest repository of knowledge on the internet. Wikipedia articles are free from any copyright infringement so anyone can freely access, share, make modifications and redistribute them. Wikipedians have been able to create this ecosystem of nurturing new editors by teaching them the process of encyclopaedic content generation which not only polishes their writing abilities, but strengthens their communication skills.

Wikimania is fun, it brings wikipedians across the globe speaking diverse languages under one roof where they meet each other and share their ideas and collaborate.

Over 600 wikipedians from various countries participated in this year’s Wikimania including 16 from India. In the open world of Wikipedia collaboration always happen beyond borders; one Nepali and four Bangla Wikipedians from Bangladesh also joined the Indian Wikipedians to rejoice the triumph of the effort of all the volunteers from the subcontinent.

The fun was not just limited in creating a wall of their dreams, ambitions and action plans to take their own language Wikipedia to more people or discuss how they could write articles that are important to each others languages. It went upto helping each other to fix problems in typing Indian languages and discussing success stories of successful workshops that resulted bring more student contributors. Ganesh Paudel, a Wikipedian from Nepal says, "My hometown is very close to India and we share the same script with Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit and Konkani. India and Nepal both have sizable population speaking Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Sanskrit, Bangla and Hindi. I’m personally interested to collaborate with Indians speaking these languages." I could see the glow in his eyes when he wrote and explained the beautiful curvature of Ranjana script to me. Tinu Cherian, another long term Wikipedian who was attending Wikimania for the third time was excitedly live-tweeting the happening at Hong Kong. When I asked how he is feeling after a short break he unfolded his hands and proudly said, "Wikipedia is like religion to me, once a Wikipedian, you are always a Wikipedian!". Netha, a medical college student from Kerala spoke about bringing more women to contribute to Wikipedia. She calls Kavya, a college lecturer and Malayalam wikipedian who spoke about Women and non-conventional education as one of the gems she has discovered in her personal journey.

Wikimania also has Sengai Podhuvan, one of the oldest Indian Wikipedians. His appeal for Wikipedia fundraising brought a lot of donations to Wikimedia Foundation. Dr. Podhuvan shared his story of learning using computer, Tamil typing and writing articles about Wikimania this year brought many academicians, education researchers, policy change makers and open source and open knowledge activists across the world to share their ideas, activities going across the world even while enjoying dinner in the 100th floor.

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