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Righting Wikipedia’s African Information Imbalance

By Wayan Vota on December 8, 2009

It should not come as a surprise that Africa is poorly represented in Wikipedia. Most of their articles are written by people personally interested in a subject, and subjects close to home interest most people. And most people online are in the global North, so Wikipedia articles put to a map might look something like this:

But what is shocking is the analysis from Mapping the Geographies of Wikipedia Content. Mark Graham found a information imbalance that should give us all pause:

Remarkably there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than all but one of the fifty-three countries in Africa (or perhaps even more amazingly, there are more Wikipedia articles written about the fictional places of Middle Earth and Discworld than about many countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia).

Now I think Africa’s low ICT penetration rate is the root cause of this distortion, and as Africa comes online, we’ll see this map darken the “Dark Continent”, but that’s a long term solution. In the near term, there are projects like Wikimedia by moulin that are getting Wikipedia out to African communities, but unless there is relevant content, end users will not see Wikipedia relating to them – now or in the future.

Which means its time for all of us to do our share to make information available and relevant – to Africans and the world – on Wikipedia now. If you’re reading this article, you’re most likely someone who both knows about Africa and has the Internet skills to contribute to Wikipedia.

So start a new article on a African topic of your choice today!

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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