[Ilugc] OT: Fwd: Bridging the gap between rural india and wikipedia
suraj at sunson.in
Tue Feb 17 11:34:58 IST 2009
I've been trying to float up an NGO that will run by the philosophy of "If
rural india won't go to wikipedia, take wikipedia to rural india".
Here is a mail I'd written to Wikipedia. Please go through and let me know
how you can be of help.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Suraj Kumar <suraj at sunson.in>
Date: Sat, Feb 14, 2009 at 1:35 PM
Subject: Bridging the gap between rural india and wikipedia
To: info at wikimedia.org
I'm looking for helping rural india using Wikipedia and helping enrich
wikipedia using rural india's unique knowledge that is typically not part of
Wikipedia because the current contributors to wikipedia are from urban parts
There is no denying, Wikipedia is probably the single most useful asset of
all of humanity's knowledge on the Internet. But there are limiting factors
for accessing and contributing to Wikipedia:
1. Internet connection
2. Computer Literacy
I strongly believe, its worth my life in enabling rural india to
1. Benefit from the knowledge available on Wikipedia
2. Contribute to Wikipedia and enrich it with rural india's knowledge
3. Extend this to allow global rural societies from across the world to
Ideally, we would have a computer kiosk where people can access wikipedia.
But besides Internet connection and Computer Literacy being limiting factors
there are other practical problems of Rural india - Frequent power supply
failures, 'fear' amongst rural india's peoples to use computers, etc., So
obviously, doing it through a computer with internet connection is out of
Imagine a book lending library: There is one computer which relies on an
average internet connection and doesn't really depend on being continuously
powered. There is an NGO worker in this library. To start with, this library
keeps locally translated printed versions of what-would-be-useful topics
from Wikipedia. Locals are free to enter this library, use the books (maybe
borrow the books too if they are members) and even make photocopies for a
nominal cost. To adhere to the spirit of wikipedia, they are also allowed to
write new physical paper books in the local language and hand it over to the
librarian (NGO worker) OR make corrections to existing books OR even just
sit with the librarian in contributing to wikipedia. Content will be
published using wikipedia guidelines. Most importantly changes go back to
wikipedia web. The library 'learns' what is locally relevant and prints
those topics as book. This is what this project is all about.
One of the core things that will power this library is a software. Its a
software that need not be run continuously nor does it need to be connected
to the internet all the time. Its a simple client application that sends
some logs / data to a central server and gets a list of 'eBooks' in return
from the server. The idea is to print these eBooks and store at this
The data being sent would be
1. The list of topics that are in demand (both available, lent books as well
as topics that people came looking for but couldn't find in the library)
weighted by the number of times each topic was referred to.
2. Available paper / money.
The central server in turn returns a type-set, indexed set of e-books that
this library can now print and keep. Printing will be done locally by the
library using local resources (use a printer if there is one donated, find a
local printer who can print this, or maybe if the local govt is willing to
help, use their resources - in short, use the best local means of doing it).
Infact, if the central server knows of several libraries nearby, then help
print in bulk and provide information on where to collect the books meant
for this library. Implementation can be worked out - but I hope you get the
idea: *Centralised decision making and resource planning; Distributed
information disbursement and collection*.
*Library as a communication platform*
The library can also become a platform for other NGOs to reach rural india.
As an example, let's say there is an NGO which wants to encourage villagers
to switch to sustainable agricultural practices (getting back to crop
rotation, organic farming practices, permaculture, educating them about
effective water use, etc.,) - they might either just want to educate them,
in which case - they write wikipedia articles and fund our NGO to make the
books available OR they might want some data from the villages (ex: crop
yield using fertilizers vs crop yield using organic methods) - in which case
the NGO worker can help collect the data, feed it into wikipedia and help
the associated NGO use the data. Additionally, they can even fund us in
creating local language video presentations or lectures for educational
purposes and these videos can go into wikimedia.
I can also imagine, some creative uses such as one of the volunteers
creating a mini project (an arbitrary example: a simple crude electronics
device to help use water efficiently for irrigation?) and using wikipedia to
document it so that other villages across india (or the world) can start
building the same.
*The NGO Worker*
Each library will have an NGO worker. The responsibilities of the NGO worker
will be as follows:
1. Create awareness amongst locals about this effort by providing them
relevant, useful, practical information that the locals would find helpful
(ex: if the local economy is mainly to do with cloth weaving, educate them
about weaving practices used across the world, goverment's benefit
2. Help translate relevant local topics that are in english into the local
3. Write locally contributed / "observed" local language articles into
4. Print books as and when money / raw materials become available.
5. Improve usefulness of the library - Find local source of funds and
volunteers - is there another NGO that will benefit from us? What are the
local people's needs? Any schools nearby to benefit from this?
*Misc. Sources of revenue*
- Library as a wikibook publisher: Authors who are willing to write free
wikibooks can benefit from cheaper operating costs, better reach into rural
india and thereby tapping a new market for selling their books.
*The Govt of India, I hear, started a project called "VKC" (for Village
Knowledge Centers) - a govt run non-profit with the aim of turning about
600,000 villages into knowledge centers. However, I'm unable to find folks
in the VKC project. Their website is gone and all I could find was a mailing
list with no activity after 2004. I'm not even sure what's the status of
this effort. Secondly, their goal is not to collect all of humanity's
knowledge and is indeed a high ambitioned, high technology project. We might
benefit from their infrastructure and I don't see why they would not like to
host our project. But until we find out further, we can safely assume we're
on our own.
Now... how can Wikipedia help this effort? :)
PS: A bit about myself: I'm 28 - I work at Yahoo! - I've been an ardent free
software enthusiast. I used to run the 'Demo at Schools' project to help create
awareness of Free Software to school children (but that was a long time
ago!). Now, I live in Bangalore with my wife and my parents live in
Thanjavur, a small town in Tamil Nadu, India rich in agricultural
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