India is expected to remain the "number one most strategic region" in the global plans of the Wikipedia, according to a top official of the free Internet encyclopaedia that allows its users to edit most of its content.
"We’re working on our new global strategy. In 2010, we identified India as the number one most strategic region, and I expect India to continue to have pride of place," Asaf Bartov, who looks after Emerging Wikimedia Communities worldwide, said here.
Bartov said the challenge for Wikipedia — the largest, most popular general reference work on the Internet, and among the top 10 most-visited sites in the world — was coping with India’s "huge size and diversity".
"Hindi Wikipedians as a community have such a hard time meeting up across different states and even countries," he told IANS, even as the WikiConference India 2016 ended in the twin towns of Chandigarh-Mohali in the weekend.
Bartov said the "subjective" challenges included arguments among those volunteering on this giant global project, the emphasis on status and authority, especially given that the project is sometimes seen as self-governing or leaderless.
Moreover, he suggested, peer collaboration might be a less acceptable trend in India.
Partnerships with museums and universities — who are natural allies for a project like the Wikipedia — could be a bit of a challenge here, he added.
Instead of taking an approach of seeing themselves as "guardians" of culture, museums working with Wikipedia could also fulfil their mission of reaching out to communities, Bartov suggested, citing the example of the British Museum, and other such institutions.
But he said he was "very impressed" with the work of the Tamil Wikipedia, which worked in a "self-organising and very community-oriented spirit".
They had even raised funds to buy a computer for a team-member who simply could not afford it, and the State government Tamil Virtual Academy (tamilvu.org) had made much progress in digitising Tamil literature "en masse".
Likewise, the Punjabi Wikipedia had revitalised itself over the last two years with a "young and energetic" group, in an "amazing" way. They managed to grow as a team, and attain 30 per cent growth in content too, he said.
Also, with Malayalam, there was a lot of "self-organising, mutual help and specialising". Their wiki samamga mahotsav meetings were a useful outreach to elementary schools.
"Since young children might not be comfortable in writing, they’re getting the kids to contribute by way of drawings," he said.
Figures emerging at the WikiConference, meanwhile, suggest that compared to the English Wikipedia’s total strength of five million articles, Hindi had 106,000 and Urdu had 105,000 articles. Tamil had a little over 88,000, and Telugu, almost 64,000.
From the subcontinent, Nepali came in with a credible 72,744 articles, while the other wikipedias came in with lesser figures.
Hindi, Sindhi and Gujarati had the lowest number of editors per million speakers — with 0.2, 0.1 and 0.2 editors per million respectively.
At the other end were languages like Malayalam with two editors per million, Nepal and Tamil with one editor each per million speakers.
The Wikipedia is the seventh most visited site in India, and by some estimates, the sixth-most popular in the world. Some 1.8 million sites link to the Wikipedia, according to alexa.com, that provides commercial web traffic data and analytics, giving a hint of its clout in cyberspace.