Farsi Wikipedia, a Success Story

Farsi Wikipedia, a Success StoryFarsi Wikipedia, a Success Story

The Farsi Wikipedia is one of the online encyclopedia’s most successful versions in the Middle East and the world.

“Farsi Wikipedia comes as one of the top five entries suggested by search engines when it has a corresponding article for a particular subject,” said its managing director Mohsen Salek at the First Wikipedia Conference held December 3-4 at Chamran University in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province.

The conference sought to discuss the existing opportunities in Farsi Wikipedia to develop and expand science, knowledge, and information to the public, and to bolster cooperation between the website and academia, reported.

On July 27, thousands of volunteers, translators, writers, researchers, students and internet users saw history made with the Farsi Wikipedia’s 500,000th article, the culmination of a 13-year effort to compile the largest online encyclopedia in the language. The milestone article was on ‘wheelchair rugby league’, a version of rugby played in wheelchairs.

Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on a model of openly editable content. The name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning ‘quick’) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia’s articles provide links designed to guide the user to related pages with additional information.

Despite skepticism from a number of experts regarding accuracy of the website’s scientific content, it remains the most frequently visited online database across the world. Studies show that over 75% of the global academic population regularly use this popular information bank.

Today, the Farsi site which was launched on September 19, 2003, has about 4,000 registered active editors and is the largest Wikipedia that uses right-to-left scripts.

“Farsi Wikipedia is independent and has no political or social leaning,” Salek noted.

“The only purpose it serves is to elevate the level of human knowledge,” he said referring to Wikipedia Foundation’s self-declared commitment which says, “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”

The site has been assisted in their efforts by the Wikipedia Education Program, which aims to engage students and academics across disciplines so that they will use and publish on Wikipedia.

 Obstacles to Development

According to Salek, one major obstacle to expanding the Farsi Wikipedia is low digital penetration in the areas where Farsi is spoken.

Most Farsi Wikipedia users reside in the country, and it has over 43 million internet users. However, bandwidth speeds average around one-tenth of the global average, and filtering and censorship limits access to reliable sources.

Contributors have faced challenges in obtaining needed resources and citations to write adequate Wikipedia article, as journal articles and research material is generally not available free of charge to Iranian university students.

However, they have tried to address this through the Wikipedia Library, which many Iranian editors of Wikipedia are eligible for, and believe that the program in Iran is now a success story.

Furthermore, Salek said, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is not recognized in Iran and some other Farsi-speaking countries, so users of the Farsi Wikipedia face ethical challenges every day in using Farsi sources that might have unrecognized intellectual property rights.

There is room to grow for the Farsi Wikipedia in fields such as medicine, dentistry, engineering, chemistry, physics and mathematics. There have been published articles in astronomy, botany, geography and zoology, but these subjects cannot compare to the corresponding entries available in English both in terms of quality and quantity.

The ongoing project shows great promise such as in a recent increase in the number of scientific articles in Wikipedia Persian translation projects, which could indicate that more university professors in Farsi-speaking regions are encouraging students to work collectively towards completing a Wikipedia entry.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints