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Wikipedia Article Quality in Africa

Out of all of the parts of the world in which we’ve looked at the geographies of Wikipedia articles, it is Africa that is characterised by some of the most interesting patterns. 


The most obvious fact is that there is simply a lack of information about much of the continent. The glow of content in Southern Europe at the top of the map stands in stark contrast the absence of any information about most parts of Africa.  

Regional differences are then apparent in Africa. Articles within Madagascar and Ethiopia tend to be quite long; whereas those about Tanzania and Algeria are on average much shorter.  

The reasons for these differences are unclear. It is doubtful that features, places and events in Ethiopia in need of more detailed description than those in South Africa or  Ghana. I’m also not convinced that Ugandans or the Malagasy are more verbose than Tanzanians and Kenyans.

How are these regional differences then be explained? It is likely that (as we’ve seen before), regional patterns can largely be explained by a few diligent editors that have an interest in describing certain parts of the world. 

But how do we move towards encouraging participation from and about the parts of the continent that are left out of these virtual representations? Visualising the presences and absences of information and knowledge is obviously the first step: allowing people to see what is, and isn’t, represented. 

After that, there is also a clear need for plans like Wikimedia’s new collaboration with the Qatar Foundation in order to put into place concrete policies and strategies that will boost content. Our team is also beginning a similar initiative that will start with two workshops in April 2012 (in Cairo and Amman). The workshops will bring together local Wikipedians and allow us to understand the most significant barriers contributors face to creating content about their cities, regions and countries. I’ll post more details about the workshops on this blog as we begin to finalise our schedules and strategies.