CAIRO: An initiative to increase and enhance the Arabic content on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, through a Saturday meeting was met with an obvious lack of interest at the Cairo arm of the regional event, known as Wikipedia Day.
The attendance was weak and below the expected number, with few participants at conference held the Arab Academy for Science and Technology in Nasr City.
The organizers, who publicized for the event through Facebook, cited “general lack of awareness of the importance of the issue and unpopularity of the “culture of volunteer work, as the main reasons behind such low attendance.
When you know that languages which are less spoken than Arabic like Swahili have more content than Arabic, it is very frustrating. And we want to change that, Mahmoud Baraka, one of the organizers told Daily News Egypt.
Similar events were organized at the same time at the Bibliotheca Alexandria and in Damascus University in Syria but the percentage of participation there were reasonably high.
Arabic content in Wikipedia not only is low in number but many of the existing articles are either incomplete or inaccurate; some of them don t exceed five words.
Before the Wikipedia Day, there were only 72,000 articles in Arabic but at the end of the day the number reached 75,492 articles, a very low number compared to the number of internet users in the Middle East.
Yet, the number of articles added in Arabic on Saturday was two and a half times more than English language articles added on the same day and 10 times more than German language articles.
Also 10,000 modifications were made on existing articles.
This moved Arabic up the ranking to 27 in the list of most used languages.
Organizers had to face logistic problems as the academy didn t provide them with computers and lecture tools as it was planned. In addition, university professors were confirmed to come but nobody showed up.
This the fourth regional Wikipedia Day, but it is the first in which Wikimedia foundation Egypt gather people in a full day event in one place rather than working from home at the same time, like before.
Organizers also gave a lecture for beginners on how to edit and create articles so that they can add articles later.
The subjects of the articles were left open for participants; however, there were some highlighted topics to stress on like tourism, arts, streets, science and history.
Participants in Alexandria were very happy with the day and even requested that a similar event should be organized every month.
However, in Cairo organizers are planning to shift the location of future conferences to Cairo and Zagazig Universities to ensure high rates of participation. They also have their eyes set on sponsors, mainly private companies the El Sawi Cultural wheel.
Wikipedia is a free, multilingual, open content encyclopedia project operated by the United States-based non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.
Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it attempts to collect and summarize all human knowledge in every major language.