Hundreds of people from across the country are generating online content in local Indian languages and are even competing in ‘editathons’ that pit contributors of different languages against each other.
While online encyclopedia Wikipedia’s content might be exhaustive in English, its content in Indian languages is limited. Keeping this in mind, Wikipedia’s parent organisation Wikimedia roped in Bengaluru-based Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in 2017 and started ‘Project Tiger’ aimed at generating more content in Indian languages. A pilot project was held from December 2017 to May 2018 and another phase of the competition is set to begin next month. The project has generated content in major languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Odiya and Gujarati.
The contributors are from varied age groups, some are also from remote, rural areas and they worked from different cities across the country. Two years ago, Durga Prasanna, a journalism student at Alva’s college in Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district, joined a group of contributors to Wikipedia as part of a requirement from the college. She got an opportunity to participate in ‘Project Tiger’ last year. She generated Wikipedia entries in Kannada and also in the regional languages of Tulu and Konkani. Apart from Durga, seven other students of her college together contributed over 70 articles in Kannada, and a few in Tulu and Konkani, during the ‘editathon’. “We were provided a long list of topics on which not much literature existed in the local languages and among them, we chose topics based on our interests. For example, I wrote articles on ‘psychologist’ and ‘medicinal plants’,” she said.
Another participant, Charan Gill, a 65-year-old former social worker from Patiala, Punjab, was the top contributor in Punjabi. “I wrote 432 articles in a span of two-and-a-half months. However, contributing is not new to me as I have written over 10,000 Wikipedia entries in Punjabi since 2012,” he says.
Gill now works with another Wikimedia project, translating literary classics into Punjabi. He is currently translating some works of 19th century Russian author Ivan Turgenev. Thanks to Gill’s contributions, the Punjabi community of contributors won the prize for producing the most articles — 1,320. In Tamil, 1,241 articles were contributed. A total of 78 articles were produced in Kannada by eight members.
A Gopalkrishna, community advocate for Kannada language, CIS, said all written articles were evaluated by a Wikimedia team to check if they fulfilled all criteria before being uploaded on Wikipedia. “The main idea was to create content in Indian languages. The things most Indian contributors required were internet and hardware support. So participants who had made significant contributions prior to the competition were provided internet connections or laptops,” he said.