Transforming Africa Climate Change Information via Wikipedia
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15 August 2019 Author :   Padili Mikomangwa

PAMACC News - The Africa’s first-ever Wikipedia edit-a-thon, organized by Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and Future Climate for Africa (FCFA),has  opened the door for African climate experts and researchers to boost the quality and quantity of climate change information on Wikipedia, the largest world encyclopedia and currently the super-highway of information for ordinary people across Africa.

For 3 days, 30 participants from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, converged together with veteran Wikipedia editors to learn, update content and initiate a vital bedrock that stamps African climate change research within Wikipedia, which gets up to 20 billion pages viewed each month, according to Wikimedia statistics.

At the moment, Wikipedia furnishes readily accessible information to the larger global audience of millions. Available data indicates Africa’sinternet penetration to be at 39.8 percent, compared to 60.5 percent of the rest of the world, plus the continent has a telecommunication sector which is growing fast.

Further, Alexa Internet ranked Wikipedia to be one of the popular websites in the world as of June 2019, placing it at the top of the internet food chain.This means that having reliable, customized and well-packaged information on Wikipedia, real-time climate change threats on food security, water resources, agricultural production, and ecosystem services could be addressed timely and swiftly, by decisive actions backed with verified information.

This means that having reliable, customized and well-packaged information on Wikipedia has potential to reach decision-makers on the continent who can use it to address climate change threats to food security, water resources, agricultural production, and ecosystem services.

And yet availability of this impeded by the fact that only a fraction of editors are from Sub-Saharan Africa.Out of 70,000 editors globally only 1000 are from sub-Saharan Africa. It is therefore not surprising for African climate change information to be under-represented in the internet.

The edit-a-thon came about to instigate improved African representation in various pages with real-time information casting light on climate change issues, but also to lead the way for researchers to contribute their findings effectively to Wikipedia, increasing their global exposure and the impact of their research.

Available data on Wikipedia interaction across the world indicates that 97 percent of all reads are in the English language, but Wikis exist in many more languages.According to Dr. Katharine Vincent a climate change expert from Kulima Integrated Development Solutions in South Africa,

“A big aim of Wikipedia is to decolonize knowledge and a major way of doing that is making information available in languages other than English.  English was the common language among all participants, although obviously many other languages are known.  We had a number of Francophone participants who edited pages in French as well as English, and others also have plans to edit in non-European languages in the future” she added.

The edit-a-thon carved its groundwork on high impact pages which needed a robust update of vital information on climate change adaptation, climate change in Africa, drylands, and agriculture.

As participants shared information updating tasks, so as their skills were sharpened. “They were shown by the Wikimedia ZA group how to edit and add to pages, and given insights into the style of writing for an online encyclopediawhich is, of course, aimed at a different audience and therefore requires a different style to academic writing” Katharine added.

Thanks to the edit-a-thon, information on climate change in Africa, adaptation finance, adaptation policy(which was out of date) and gender and climate changeis now available, packaging well referenced African examples which have been published by participants, including Katharine who intends to work on other spheres remotely with other editors in the near future.

Africa is ready for more editors to chime in and strengthen information sharing on Wikipedia. As of the event completion, 30 editors have joined the available 1000. Still, a healthy representation draws out huge impacts and has significant potential to make available the information needed to respond to climate change on the continent.

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