Education/Newsletter/May 2017/Wikimedia participates in the Africa Regional Internet and Development Dialogue

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Wikimedia participates in the Africa Regional Internet and Development Dialogue[edit]

Author: Tighe Flanagan, Senior Manager, Wikipedia Educaiton Program

Summary: The Internet Society invited the Wikipedia Education Program to participate in the Africa Regional Internet Development Dialogue to contribute to the themes of transforming entrepreneurship and education in the age of the Internet. The ISOC Chapters also welcomed an opportunity to learn more about the Wikipedia Education Program and the Wikimedia Movement as part of their one-day advocacy and policy workshop.

Article: Last month I had the pleasure of participating in the Africa Regional Internet and Development Dialogue organized by the Internet Society in Kigali, Rwanda. It was a great opportunity to connect with people interested in the theme of using the Internet to transform education in Africa, as well as the African Internet economy.

This was my introduction to the Internet Society (ISOC, pronounced “eye-sock”). Their vision, “the Internet is for everyone,” definitely compliments the work we do as Wikimedians with our vision, “the sum of all knowledge.” As an organization, they also work with global communities and have a network of affiliates around the world. This seemed like an especially exciting opportunity to connect with their robust network of African ISOC chapters, and then connecting them with local Wikimedia counterparts (where they exist) and also broadening our reach to places where we may not have established communities.

The main themes of this event were education and economy, and how innovative approaches can change the status quo in Africa. This provided a great backdrop to present the Wikipedia Education Program as a flexible model that develops meaningful skills in students -- skills that are necessary in an increasingly digital age, skills that also make students more competitive as job seekers and even entrepreneurs. It also allowed for conversation around diversity, representation, and local content (in terms of local topics and local language).

The most exciting connections came from meeting representatives of the ISOC Chapters from their respective countries. I learned that the Ugandan chapter was already working on a project focusing on getting a local language Wikipedia up and running. They have been collaborating with people from Wikimedia Sweden on technical issues, like getting the MediaWiki interface up and running in the Luganda language. At the same time, they are finding partners at a university faculty that teach Luganda to translate and develop articles for this new project.

I met people from Rwanda, Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Togo, who wanted to learn more about Wikimedia and using Wikipedia as part of their outreach efforts, and where formal Wikimedia affiliates are not yet established. I’m excited to see what kind of opportunities for collaboration and continued engagement there will be going forward.