The Wikimedia Foundation, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, announced today that it will host Wikipedia Academy workshops in various locations throughout South Africa on November 10 and 11, 2007. Co-hosted by South Africa-based nonprofit organization, iCommons, the goal of the Wikipedia Academies is to stimulate the growth of the local-language Wikipedias in South Africa.

“Wikipedia versions are currently available for only 250 of the world’s 7,000 languages. Establishing Wikipedias in more African languages will enable speakers of those languages to more actively participate in the global exchange of knowledge. Additionally, it may, in a small way, help to preserve those languages,” said Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. “I ask people to consider donating to our current fundraiser, so that we can do more of this important work.”

Jimmy Wales will deliver a motivational keynote at the beginning of each Wikipedia Academy. Afterwards, attendees will be coached in how to edit Wikipedia through various intensive workshops. They will also have the opportunity to meet Ndesanjo Macha – considered the father of the Swahili Wikipedia – who will share his experiences in sustaining local language Wikipedias.

The first event will take place at CIDA City Campus – the first free university in South Africa – on Saturday, November 10. It will launch a series of Academies supported by local business and media, with an Afrikaans Wikipedia Academy workshop taking place Sunday, November 11.

The South African Academies come in the midst of Wikimedia Foundation’s annual fundraising initiative, which runs from October 22nd to December 23rd. The fundraiser goal is to raise enough money to cover operating costs, and enable more Wikipedia Academies worldwide. For more information about the fundraiser, please visit this site and its FAQs.

Wikipedias in the South African languages are still fairly small. For example, the Afrikaans Wikipedia, which is the largest South African language Wikipedia, has slightly under 7,000 articles. Wikipedias in languages like Sesotho, Zulu, and Swati contain fewer than 100 entries each. Strengthening and growing the South African language Wikipedias will help preserve those languages, and the cultural knowledge of their speakers, for future generations.

[tags]wikipedia, south africa, afrikaans[/tags]