The Insightful Experience That Was Wikimania 2018

From 18-21 July, people from all walks of life convened in Cape Town, South Africa, for the first ever Wikimania gathering in "Sub-Saharan Africa".

The five-day event was held at the Cape Sun Hotel and featured over 700 attendees from 60 countries, united by their commitment to create more equity and bridge knowledge gaps across Wikipedia.

Wikimania was loaded with numerous gatherings in form of discussions, presentations and workshops focusing on a number of pressing issues pertaining to content creation, research, languages, women's visibility on the internet and the overall call to decolonize the internet; not forgetting the marginalisation/under representation of African languages.

Attendees were spoilt for choice as a variety of topics were tackled, some happened concurrently in different venues while others overlapped.  Most of the gatherings I experienced centred around African languages, women, research and Ubuntu.

I got to meet some incredible people from Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Brazil, South Africa, Algeria amongst so many others, all of whom are doing great work in documenting and telling stories from their respective countries.

One of my outstanding moments were the women-centred discussions which unpacked what some women experience in their countries as they try to navigate through male dominated spaces, the challenges they face in trying to ensure women's visibility on the internet and so forth. And the lesson learned from this was - we should not be afraid to claim these spaces. One of the ladies from Uganda also shared with us how she was encouraging people to be part of Wiki Uganda but subconsciously leaving herself out; meaning, sometimes as women we fail to take up leadership roles, we unintentionally tend to shy away from spearheading initiatives.

For obvious reasons, European languages such as Dutch, German are the most used on Wikipedia with English being the number one used language.

I also got a chance to speak to one of the gentlemen who was teaching me how to edit Wikipedia. I asked him what are they doing to change the under representation of African languages and which Africans are responsible for editing Swahili.   He said Wikimania being held in Cap Town was one of the steps and through outreach programs where they've been going to the people and teaching them how to edit Wikipedia.

About Swahili, he revealed that he doesn't know of any Africans editing Swahili, that the actual Swahili content on Wikipedia is edited by Europeans.

In terms of setting, different topics discussed in  a number of auditoriums which were classified under countries/cities such as Montreal, London, Italia, United States and that way you would choose to attend to whatever topic resonated with you. I kept on looking for rooms with an African city/country with batted breath. For an event debuting in Sub-Saharan Africa; where were the African countries/cities? It would have been great to see Africa included in this regard. Secondly, one of the discussions I attended focused on including minority languages which featured a language from Algeria - again; I kept on asking where are the minority "Sub-Saharan African" languages? Given how part of the event's agenda was a call to boost content from the continent, I expected a broader representation with a customised approach referencing Africa.

Despite the above mentioned concerns, Wikimania 2018 was an insightful adventure, where sharing knowledge, experiences and networking with like-minded people and thought leaders from across the world was the order of the day. It was worthwhile; something I would most certainly attend if held annually.

I also stumbled upon these mind-boggling photos at the event:

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