CfA’s WiR Conference – June 2023 Edition: Boosting African Presence on Wikipedia

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Code for Africa hosted the June edition of the Wikimedian-in-residence (WiR) Anglophone community conference on Thursday, 22 June 2023. The conference includes a 1.5 hour panel discussion moderated by Bukola James (CfA’s WiR community coordinator bringing together 44 members of the   CfA’s WiRs Anglophone community from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda under the theme “Enhancing African Representation on Wikipedia: Tackling the Content Deficit and Strategies for Progress”, we heard from Wiki Experts such as Olushola Olaniyan (President Wikimedia Nigeria User Group) and Tochi Precious (Co-founder Igbo Wikimedia User Group). The virtual event was held on the 22nd of June 2023 and was inspired by the African Day Campaign celebrated every 25th of May, dedicated to curating and improving the online representation of Africa and the Wikimedia’s Foundation published series on Black History Month reflections on representation. The WiR Anglophone community contributed to this discussion by identifying and understanding the  underrepresentation of African content on Wikipedia (if any) and generating stimulating discussions that will inspire Wikimedians in general to play an active role in the growth of contents concerning Africa on Wikimedia platforms.

Underrepresentation in the context of content

The conference started with a thought-provoking question for speakers to explain the meaning of the underrepresentation in the context of content which according to Tochi Precious refers to the insufficient or limited coverage of certain topics, individuals, or perspectives within the encyclopaedia. It means that African  groups, communities, or subjects are not adequately represented in the articles and content available on Wikipedia. Hence, participants and speakers explored the challenges faced by African content on Wikipedia and examined the reasons behind its underrepresentation.

Addressing the content deficit

One of the key questions addressed was whether there was an underrepresentation of African content on English Wikipedia. While opinions varied, the consensus was that a deficit exists, which was attributed to content quality, demographics of editors, gender imbalance, low awareness, and few experienced African contributors on the English Wikipedia. The conference also identified the parties responsible for this deficit, how it can be addressed effectively, and initiatives carried out by the user groups to increase the quality of African-related contents to address this underrepresentation effectively.

Insights from Remarkable Speakers

The conference featured  distinguished speakers such as Tochi Precious from Wikimedia Igbo and Olushola Olaniyan from Wikimedia User Group Nigeria. Both speakers shared their insights and experiences on the challenges and opportunities in creating and expanding African content on Wikimedia platforms, with emphasis on the need for more African voices, stories, and perspectives to be included in the global knowledge repository that the English Wikipedia represents in order to bridge gaps in knowledge and foster greater inclusivity, inspiring participants to take an active role in the growth of African content on all Wikimedia platforms.

Strategies and Initiatives for Progress

The speakers highlighted the strategies and initiatives undertaken by their User Groups to increase the quantity and quality of African-related content on Wikipedia with emphasis on engagement and collaboration with communities and organisations.

Some of the strategies adopted include:

  1. Involvement of People: This emphasised the importance of engaging and involving communities and individuals in addressing the underrepresentation of African content on Wikipedia by encouraging African contributors to participate actively in editing, creating, and expanding articles related to African topics in their local languages.
  2.  Increasing Content on Wikipedia: This can be achieved by encouraging users to create new articles, expand existing ones, and translate articles from other languages to English. Initiatives like WikiLovesMonuments and Naijawomen focus on creating content specific to African heritage sites and notable women, respectively.
  3. Organising WikiLovesMonuments: WikiLovesMonuments is a global photography competition aimed at documenting cultural heritage sites. By organising WikiLovesMonuments events in Africa, local communities are encouraged to capture and upload images of important heritage sites, resulting in the creation of new articles or the enhancement of existing ones.
  4. African Wikimedians: African Wikimedians is a user group that focuses on promoting African content on Wikimedia platforms. This group engages African contributors, provides support and training, and organises edit-a-thons and other events to encourage the creation and improvement of African-related articles.
  5. Developing tools to Support Local Works: Various tools and resources have been developed to support international initiatives which have been adopted for local initiatives and address the underrepresentation of African content. These tools include translation tools, and citation generators. However there is a need to develop editing guides tailored to the needs of African contributors. By providing these resources, the barriers to entry for new editors are lowered, resulting in increased participation.
  6.  Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration within and across Wikimedia user groups and partnerships with organisations and institutions can significantly contribute to addressing underrepresentation. By working together, knowledge sharing and resources can be pooled, enabling the creation of high-quality articles and the promotion of African representation on Wikipedia.

Positive Feedback and Conclusion

The WiR Anglophone Conference was a resounding success, with 44 passionate participants paving the way for progress in enhancing African representation on Wikipedia. Positive feedback was received, and participants expressed a desire to continue their active involvement in the Wikimedia community and contribute to the growth of African representation on Wikipedia. 

Throughout the event, participants engaged in lively discussions, asked questions, and benefited from the expertise of renowned speakers. The positive feedback received reflects the enthusiasm and dedication of the attendees, who expressed their appreciation for the valuable insights and inspiration gained from the conference.

Some of the feedbacks from participants include

An inspiring session, great to be part of it”

Daship Na’an gap 

It was a great privilege to be in attendance for the insightful session. It was so impactful and interactive”…

Salako Olamilekan Lukman

“An interesting  session…”

Oby Ezeilo

“I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this conference. The discussions and insights shared here have opened my eyes to the importance of diverse content on Wikipedia. I can’t wait to put what I’ve learned into action.”…

Anyanwu John

The discussions were thought-provoking, and I’m excited to implement what I’ve learned and engage with the wider Wikimedia community.”…

Blessing Linason

The success of the WiR Anglophone Conference has laid a solid foundation for future initiatives and collaborations aimed at enhancing African representation on Wikipedia. The enthusiasm and dedication displayed by the participants will undoubtedly contribute to the growth and diversification of African content on Wikimedia platforms.

In conclusion, the conference was a resounding success, igniting a passion for change and inspiring participants to continue their active involvement in the Wikimedia community. The desire expressed by attendees to contribute, collaborate, and advocate for African representation on Wikipedia signals a promising future for a more inclusive and comprehensive knowledge repository.

Kindly find below, link to the session recording;

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