Jun 1 , 2019

Close to three dozen local professionals have founded a non-profit organisation that will be part of the global foundation that hosts Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

Close to three dozen local professionals have founded a non-profit organisation that will be part of the global foundation that hosts Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

Initiated by two founders and more than thirty active Wikipedia contributors in Ethiopia and abroad, Wikimedia Ethiopia was registered by the Ethiopia Civil Society Organisations Agency on May 21, 2019.

Wikimedia Ethiopia will support and promote Wikimedia projects in Ethiopia as an official Wikimedia chapter, according to Zekarias Bogale, founding member and board chairperson of the organisation.

The charity organisation will work on the promotion of free and open-source knowledge and collect and develop educational content that falls under free licenses or that are in the public domain, according to Zekarias.

Wikimedia Ethiopia will also attempt to create more content about Ethiopia on Wikipedia and diversify the option of Ethiopian languages Wikipedia can be accessed through.

Currently, there are around 10,000 Amharic articles on Wikipedia, while there are about 1,000 articles in the Tigrinya and Oromo languages.

Wikimedia chapters, like Wikimedia Ethiopia, are working to be incorporated as independent non-profit organisations representing and supporting Wikimedia globally. There are around 32 Wikipedia chapters around the world.

Though there have been regular Ethiopian contributors to Wikipedia for over a decade, they faced legal hurdles in becoming an official Wikimedia chapter in Ethiopia and getting registered locally, according to Zekarias.

"The civil societies law that was recently amended has laid a conducive atmosphere for the foundation to get registered by setting standards that Wikimedia Foundation could meet," said Zekarias.

Getting anonymous contributors in Ethiopia was the other challenge mentioned by the founders. The Foundation hopes these anonymous contributors join its organisation and get more members as word gets out.

The founders have targets to cover their operation costs by the contribution of its members while hoping to secure grants from the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit organisation founded in the United States that hosts 12 websites known as the Wikimedia projects.

One of the well-known projects of the Wikimedia Foundation is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia with free content based on open collaboration through a model of content editing using web-based applications. Wikipedia has over 29 million pages, 82 million registered users and 305,000 active users that have made over 300 contributions in the past six months.

Even though the founders could manage to get registered locally, they have not yet gained recognition from an affiliated committee of the Foundation. They have to apply to the committee to have their bylaws approved and to acquire the domain name 'wikipedia.org.et.' Then the Board of Trustees of Wikimedia Foundation will pass the final judgment of the approval of Wikimedia Ethiopia as a chapter.

Once it is recognised, it will be able to directly link itself to Wikimedia, use Wikimedia trademarks for its work, publicity and fundraising, and will have access to grants and other affiliate support.

Nega Adugna, general manager of Translink Solutions and an expert in the field of information technology for more than a decade, is positive about the formation of the Foundation saying that it will promote content sharing in Ethiopia.

"It can also play a big role in digitising and publishing a lot of books and works that are not easily accessed and found in old libraries," Nega said.

But Nega seems concerned with the financial sources of the charity, fearing a shortage of funding could halt its survival.

"The founders have to work in diversifying the Foundation's financial sources," he said. "They should also work on creating their own Ethiopian content sharing platform."

PUBLISHED ON Jun 01,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 996]

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