Launched at the initiative of Professional Farmers of Cameroon [Agriculteurs professionnels du Cameroun in French (Agripo)] this #Wikivillages contest aims to “support rural development and fight against the digital isolation of rural areas.
The contest #Wikivillages of Cameroon began on 20 May – the day of the National Day of Cameroon – and will end six months later, on 20 November. As explained by the movement of professionals Farmers of Cameroon (Agripo), the contest is “open to all the world’s Internet users, regardless of age or nationality. Only requirements: the article, written in English or French, must necessarily be subject to a village in Cameroon, meet Wikipedia’s editorial criteria and be published “on the online encyclopedia, which exists in nearly 300 languages.
“The goal is to give visibility to Cameroonian villages. Villages are the basic administrative structures of the country. There are 13,000 that make up 48% of the population. So we are engaging under the development dynamics to reduce the widening gap between the so-called Northern countries and the so-called developing countries, “said Adeline Flore Ngo-Samnick, CEO of Agripo.
Having five prizes (ranging from 100,000 to 1 million CFA francs, or between 150 and 1500 euros), the competition gives three objectives:
- Permit the discovery of hundreds of Cameroonian villages;
- Fight against the digital isolation of these villages and their communities;
- Enable these communities to communicate via internet on their issues, communities and development activities.
Everything started from the Agripo association, based in Tayap village whose article on Wikipedia was created in November 2014 by Laura Guien. Being an independent journalist, she explains her approach: “Since late 2014, I accompanied Agripo in several projects. We made a web documentary about the association. At one point, I thought about how to increase the visibility of the Tayap village because Agripo is really located in that village. The Agripo project was to get a rural development pilot program in this locality. So we decided to create an article on Wikipedia to improve SEO on Google. “
Then Jacqueline Louviot, member of the association of Wikimedia France, interested in this initiative, wanted to develop the idea by proposing to write about all the villages of Cameroon. Thus was born the idea of this contest. “I was not aware of the impact that the creation of the article on Tayap could have. This can have an echo outside the village and Cameroon, for Africa, especially sub-Saharan underrepresented on Wikipedia, “adds Laura Guien.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is underrepresented on Wikipedia”
This under-representation, “both in terms of number of contributors and in terms of content,” reflects [i “complex reasons, including technological and cultural. Several international projects are trying to remedy it like the Wiki Loves Africa [Photo Contest on Africa, ed] or Wiki Loves Women (creation contest of articles on African women, ed.) Similarly, #Wikivillages is part of this approach, but also boasts its own originality: it is supported by the rural world. “], says Jacqueline Louviot to Agripo.
Out of the 13 000 villages in Cameroon, just over 80 had an article on Wikipedia in French, on May 19, 2016. And on Wikipedia in English, there are 36 villages that had a section. In all, nearly 2,500 articles are devoted to Cameroon on Wikipedia in French. In comparison, Romania, a comparable country in terms of population but about two times smaller, has more than 5700 articles on the online encyclopedia.
“Participating in the construction of a living memory”
In March 2015, a study by Mark Graham, researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, showed that there were more contributors to Wikipedia from the Netherlands that the entire African continent. A reality that Laura Guien regret because “the editorial policies of Wikipedia are pretty easy. We must break the myth about Wikipedia, which is a little scary. And I think it’s important that it comes from people who are on the ground, both for them to regain control over their history and for that we can have pictures of these places. And if the northern countries people can also help, that’s fine. “
Adeline Flore Ngo-Samnick, cited by Laura Guien, concludes: [ “This approach is also there to help reduce the gap between the South and the North, but even in these countries, between urban and rural areas. [The objective is also to] support the development initiatives that are undertaken in these forgotten areas or even participate in the construction of living memory that renews itself over generations. “]