Next Sunday, 20 Israeli students will leave for humanitarian work in Africa, equipped with portable offline Wikipedia thanks to a coordinated effort between Wikimedias from Israel, Switzerland and France.

Every year, the Africa Center at BGU, headed by Dr. Tamar Golan, sends a group of students on a three-month humanitarian expedition to developing countries in Africa. This year’s group is going to the Republic of Benin and the Republic of Cameroon.

To help, Wikimedia Israel decided to equip the students with computers running free software and containing an offline (static) version of the French Wikipedia, so that the students can bring free knowledge to Africans without access to the Internet. The students also have portable installations of the offline Wikipedia, so that they may install it on any other computers they may run across in Africa

We reached out to Hamakor, the Israeli Free and Open Source Software NGO, and Hamakor helped obtain computer donations, refurbished them and installed the Linux operating system on them.

Wikimedia Israel collaborated with members of Wikimedia Switzerland and Wikimedia France to produce an up-to-date static version of the French Wikipedia (numbering about 1 million entries, and including images), French being a major language of reading and writing in Cameroon and Benin.

Incidentally, the Linux version installed on those computers is called Ubuntu Linux, ‘Ubuntu’ being an African word (in the Zulu language) roughly translated as “unity of mankind” or “mutual reliance”.

We are very excited about this project that continues the Wikimedia Movement mission of supporting and promoting the distribution of free knowledge to everyone in the world.  We can’t wait to hear an update from the students next month.

Itzik Edri

Spokesman, Wikimedia Israel