(This video is part of a series for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can support Wikipedia and free knowledge by contributing at donate.wikimedia.org. You can also view this video on YouTube.)
Growing up in Francistown, Botswana, Oarabile Mudongo was determined to reach his goal of attending university and being able to provide for himself and his family, as well as helping his community. “I need to achieve more so that I can bring something home, help my parents, and also advise my friends and the community,” explained Mudongo. “ Looking at the fact that my parents got nothing much to share with us or to provide to us, I really need to work hard.”
Mudongo developed a passion for computer engineering as a result of a computer lab endowment to his high school by a local mining company. “The main idea being that they wanted to boost the performance of students through fetching sources to read on the Internet,” he said.
The first time he used one of those computers, he was scared to touch it. “What if I destroy it?” he said. “Am I going to repay, and my parents don’t have the money to come and repay this? I was very cautious.” He has since become quite adept with computers. “I see myself being successful in life,” he said, “And that really drove my potential up until where I am right now.”
Mudongo was first exposed to Wikipedia while doing research for one of his projects as part of a local math and science fair project. “Most of the information that I got when I was in that group, the Math and Science Fair group, I relied much on Wikipedia,” he said. His projects later qualified to compete at the national level.
At that point he was hooked on computers and Wikipedia. Although he was told in school that he shouldn’t trust Wikipedia, he knew the awesome resource that it was for him and his classmates. When confronted with a Wikipedia-doubting teacher, he responded with the simple statement that “for one to understand what Wikipedia is, he or she needs to make a closer interaction with Wikipedia or Wikimedians. That’s when you understand that Wikipedia is indeed a solid rock.”
Mudongo first edited Wikipedia in 2011, just two years after coming in contact with his first computer. As part of the Setswana Wikipedia Challenge, he joined classmates in a friendly Wikipedia editing competition with the grand prize of a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend Wikimania 2012. The goal of the challenge was to translate English Wikipedia articles into Setswana and whoever got the highest marks based on the quality of the article and the richness of the language won the coveted prize. “I managed to win the challenge. I made it to D.C.,” which was a lifelong dream, he said.
Mudongo has only edited Wikipedia in Setswana, a language spoken by 4.5 million people in Southern Africa. He dreams of a day when a Wikipedia exists in his mother tongue Kalanga. “That is just my dream actually, to have a page where you can edit in Kalanga,” he said. As for topics, he mostly edits on tourism, articles related to Botswana and to his major, network engineering.
Mudongo credits Wikipedia with helping him succeed in school and in life, but with a drive like his, it’s hard to imagine him not succeeding in everything he does.
Profile by Alice Roberts, Communications Intern
Interview by Victor Grigas, Visual Storyteller