After three successful terms of the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt, Jordan, and Algeria, students in Saudi Arabia will be contributing to the Arabic Wikipedia this term at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh. Invited to meet with professors and students and to help with an introductory workshop, I traveled to Riyadh earlier this month with Dr. Nidal Yousef of Isra University in Jordan. Having an active professor from the education program in Jordan was a great occasion to further develop regional relationships and exchanges for the Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world.
KSU established their Wikipedia Training Center for Translation (WTCT, or مركز تدريب ويكيبيديا للترجمة in Arabic) in 2011, and since then they have been encouraging professors in the College of Languages and Translation to use Wikipedia articles for their translation assignments. The center is supervised by Dr. Mohammed Alghbban, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Translation at KSU and professor of Hebrew, as well as an active group of student volunteers. The center also gets support from members of the local Wikipedian community in Saudi Arabia.
Prior to doing translation projects for Wikipedia, students studying languages and translation at KSU would translate books into Arabic from English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Farsi, and Hebrew, among others. However, at the end of the day, these translations were not able to be published because of copyright restrictions. Most of them sit bound and on display in the university. Now, by translating Wikipedia articles, students’ efforts will enhance the coverage of articles on the Arabic Wikipedia and be available to anyone with access to Wikipedia.
Students in the first three terms of the Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world have contributed over 2.3 million words to the Arabic encyclopedia. Our students have also contributed good quality content. Of the nearly 250 featured articles and 240 good articles on the Arabic Wikipedia, over 30 of them are from student contributions in the program.
The center at KSU hopes to support efforts across the kingdom to contribute to Wikipedia in Arabic, not just at KSU. During the two-day workshop, students and professors from Princess Nora University joined us in the women’s section, and they hope to participate in the program this term as well.
The KSU workshop gave 118 participants a basic introduction to the Wikipedia Education Program, the Arabic Wikipedia, and some hands on practice editing with the new Visual Editor. Half of the participants were female students and teachers from Princess Nora University, and Wikipedians from the local community were able to help out in both the men’s and women’s sections. Using the new Visual Editor, students and professors were able to quickly get comfortable with on-wiki editing.
The kick-off was covered in the local press in Arabic.
While in Riyadh, we were also able to visit a group of active students at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University For Health Sciences, where an active Wikipedian is eager to encourage his colleagues studying there to contribute to Wikipedia on health and medical topics.
Looking ahead to 2014, more countries may be joining the Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world. Qatar University and Hamid Bin Khalifa University in Doha have shown interest in starting pilot programs with support from the Qatar Computer Research Institute (QCRI); The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center is working with the Wikimedia Foundation to see if a pilot is possible in Oman; and an active group of young volunteers wants to “make some noise” this year in Sana’a, Yemen.
The future looks bright for the Arabic Wikipedia. With help from the small yet dedicated community of Arabic Wikipedians, there seems to be an incredible amount of potential for improving the quality and diversity of the Arabic encyclopedia. Improvements like the Visual Editor are also welcome upgrades for participants in education programs around the world, allowing students to focus more on content and not get hung up on technical issues and code.
Arab World Education Program Manager