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Wikipedia eyes Bangalore

Deepa Kurup



Barry Newstead

BANGALORE: The Wikimedia Foundation, the outfit that runs the online community-driven open source encyclopaedia, is all set to think ‘offshore'. In a pilot initiative, the foundation will set up its first office, located out of the United States, in India, and Bangalore, with its active community of Wikipedia contributors and editors, is likely to be second home to the foundation.

The foundation plans to open its office, and build a small team by early 2011 as part of its plans to expand its user base as well as community participation in the “global South,” said Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer, Wikimedia Foundation. The foundation plans to open similar offices in Brazil, West Asia and North Africa, he told The Hindu. Mr. Newstead is currently touring India, meeting Wikipedia editors and communities here.

India chapter

The setting up of this office coincides with the initiation of a Wikipedia India chapter, being registered out of Bangalore. While the chapter will carry out various outreach activities and engage actively with the community and help facilitate partnerships with various stakeholders to take forward Wiki's larger goal of “building knowledge”, the office will act as a catalyst for this growth.

“India was a natural choice for us to expand into Asia because it has strong and passionate community participation and with the large numbers involved here, we see a lot of opportunity for growth,” Mr. Newstead said.

“We don't believe we can create communities or knowledge; but we're here to support the growth that is already happening here. Providing encouragement and building knowledge repositories in local languages (there are already over 20 active local language Wikis) is also a big part of our growth plans here.”

After Japan

In Asia, Mr. Newstead observed, India is second only to Japan in terms of readership and contribution. He believes there is “immense growth potential” here. He has participated in Wikipedia community meet-ups in several cities and is interested in the offline extensions that the community has been able to build and create. “Wikipedia is very well developed in North America and Europe. As far as the ‘global South' goes, India is a priority, given the numbers and interest here. India is a challenge in some ways as there are a lot less people online. We see that though there is a lot of creation in local languages, our viewership is predominantly in English. The India chapter will help provide direction to our growth here.”

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