Photo by 2sarojkumar, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by 2sarojkumar, CC BY-SA 4.0.

With the Odia Wikipedia and its sister projects, a handful of dedicated volunteer editors are taking the Odia language to the world outside. The editor community that has recently celebrated Odia Wikipedia’s 14th anniversary in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India is collectively growing two more projects; Odia Wikisource, an online library that already has over 300 volumes of text, and Odia Wiktionary, an online dictionary that has over 100,000 entries. With these live projects and more projects in the pipeline, this community is bringing a digital revolution in Odia by sharing valuable content online and creating many language tools inside and outside the Wikimedia projects.

The Odia Wikipedia community had gathered in the city for a two-day long event to celebrate the anniversary. These two days were spent in intensive capacity building activities as the community is quite dispersed in many places in Odisha and outside, and are all volunteers. Odia Wikipedia, the flagship project was started as one of the first four Indian language Wikipedias along with Assamese, Malayalam and Punjabi Wikipedia in 2002, a year after the English Wikipedia was made live. The project was quite dormant for more than nine years and got revived by a group of editors in Bangalore during 2011. Then the project became much of a household name when more Odia speakers living in Odisha and outside joined contributed in writing and editing articles of several different subject areas. Odia Wikipedia is part of the 292 language Wikipedia family and a larger global family of hundreds of other free knowledge projects that are collectively known as Wikimedia projects. “Odia Wikipedia is officially available online at https://or.wikipedia.org and is free for anyone to create articles on notable topics, and edit and enhance those articles”, says Mrutyunjaya Kar, one of the administrators of the project. Aliva Sahoo, one of the active editors, shares, “being a student of Odia-language I was seeking information on musical instruments and could not find much. So I started translating from English and now it is one of the longest articles on Odia Wikipedia.” As part of the WikipediansSpeak project, we have tried to capture the voice of the community of Aliva and a few other contributors.

Subhashish Panigrahi (SP): How did the two-day long capacity building activity go? What was the outcome of the different sessions?
Jnanaranjan Sahu: This event was useful in bringing most of the active contributors under one roof as we are working online. This event helped us learn from each other and impart knowledge so that everyone can go back and use them.

SP: What are the problems you faced before coming to this event and how these sessions are going to help you in future?
Abha Pradhan: I was not sure of the copyright part while uploading images on Wikimedia Commons. A lot many pictures got deleted because of my own ignorance. Similarly, I got to learn a lot about linking multiple language entries using Wikidata. These two are my biggest lessons of all that I learned from the sessions taken by other experienced Wikipedians.

SP: What did you learn from these sessions?
Rajalaxmi Mishra: I got to learn about basics of Wikipedia editing, rules and guidelines, several technical aspects like using templates, uploading and adding images to articles and dealing with copyright issues on Wikipedia.

Subas Chandra Rout, one of the long time active Wikimedians has been the single most contributor to grow the medical science-related articles on Odia Wikipedia. Subas is the only Wikimedian who has translated all the medical science-related article from Wikimedia Medical Project run by the Wiki Project Med.

“We have several subject areas covered on Odia Wikipedia – from the elaborate rituals of Jagannatha temple to medical science. Interestingly, almost all the articles on medical science are written by a retired assistant professor Dr. Subas Chandra Rout and needless to say those articles are of really high quality”, explains Pritiranjan Tripathy, an editor who is based in the Indian city of Kolkata.

It was like a “Catch me if you can” challenge when I started to translate medical topics into the Odia language as part of Wiki Project Med on March 5, 2015 with my first article on African trypanosomiasis. There were more than 150 articles in the project. Gradually the number of topics in the project increased and so did my translated article on Odia Wikipedia. After completion of the 345th article (Marfan syndrome, on May 6, 2016), I looked at the Wikipedia project dashboard, and I saw that I was the only person to complete all the articles in the project among all the world’s contributors.

“The next big goal is to enhance the quality of the existing articles by adding more images, references from external sources and expanding small articles by adding more information”, said long-time contributor Shitikantha Dash. Shitikantha, who is also an administrator of Odia Wiktionary, says, “it is important that more people contribute to the Odia Wiktionary so that words of all times and all genres, especially the technical and loan words make their way to this free multilingual dictionary. A 10 day-long campaign is going to be organised to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Odia Wiktionary so that every Wikipedia editor adds at least one word. And we are also using these words to create a spell check that will be freely available for anyone to use”.

The contributor community that is collaboratively building these projects has been also creating many tools and technical resources like editor manuals. The script encoding converters that the community has built is helping a lot of online users to be able to share their writings on blogs and social media. “Before the onset of these converters, a vast majority of the people working in press and media were stuck with outdated encoding systems like Shreelipi and Akruti. Mrutyunjaya Kar, a long time contributor and administrator of two projects; Odia Wikipedia and Wikisource explains, “Odia Wikipedia is available at https://or.wikipedia.org and we encourage more people to join us in this movement.”

“This is a way to bring digital freedom for everyone and share the world’s knowledge in our own language.”

Chinmayee Mishra, Odia Wikimedian
Subhashish Panigrahi, Odia Wikimedian, and Programme Officer, Access to Knowledge (CIS-A2K), Centre for Internet and Society
Sailesh Patnaik, Odia Wikimedian, and Programme Associate, Access to Knowledge (CIS-A2K), Centre for Internet and Society