Yesterday, we wrapped up our visit to Tunisia, which comes as part of our Arabic language initiative that WMF launched earlier in October 2011 with the Doha convening. Our initial outreach activities mainly rely on meetings with the small Wikipedia community scattered in Arabic speaking countries and exploring the possibilities of expansion of those communities, by connecting them to like-minded groups/communities that can help facilitate on ground activities and workshops in their geographies. Our first stop in this tour was Tunisia. Our first day included a lecture that was hosted by the national school of engineering. A Wikimedia staff and two Arabic Wikipedia volunteers (Ciphers and OsamaK) were part of the lecture organized by WMF on open licenses, free acess to knowledge and the use of Wikipedia in education. It was a good chance to answer questions and misconceptions related to the use of Wikipedia in education and the general status of the Arabic Wikipedia. It was also a great opportunity to meet with students of open source clubs who will form a starting point of Wikipedia clubs in their schools. Tunisia has an internet penetration of nearly 35%; with 3.5 million people having access to the internet, the country contributes 1.4% of Arabic Wikipedia content, which comes as the 3rd most viewed language after French and English. The current numbers aren’t high, however, with regard to support of open source policies (such as opengov) and the expansion of open source and open content activities that have grown recently (thanks to the revolution!), it looks like Tunisia has a good potential to increment Wikipedia contributors on Arabic and other languages, especially on mobile, which has 105.5% penetration rate.
Our visit was promising on many levels: In addition to kicking off the start of Wikipedia awareness activities in universities and other independent spaces (thanks to Nawat that agreed to host Wikipedia workshops), and helping connect current editors with new enthusiasts, we also met with the managers of the national library of Tunisia and agreed on a numbers of steps, including releasing the collection of digitized old books, periodicals, postcards and magazines to Wikisource and Wikimedia Commons, adopting a system on all their public computers that displays Wikipedia as the default search option, and on a longer term, release all their collection of digitized Arabic books (nearly 3000) to be used as sources for Wikipedia articles. In line with adding content to Commons, we also met with a consultant to the president for cultural affairs who is excited about releasing the presidential photography collection under a CC license, however, still pending digitization of the material themselves.
Tunisia came first in our tour, and it was a good start with lots of promising steps that need our follow up, which we will keep you updated with. Coming up next will be Jordan then Algeria, please drop us a line if you will be there. :-)
Global Development Team