Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wikipedia Founder To Speak At Expo

By Ashley Wichman
19 April 2007

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will be speaking at Africa’s first Digital Freedom Expo, held today and tomorrow at the University of Western Cape.

The expo will gather people who work in the free online content industry to discuss and present ideas as well as promote the use of free software.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia which currently has about 128 languages that have at least 1,000 articles, according to Wales. The goal for the website is to have articles in every language that has at least one million native speakers.

Wales said that he welcomes newcomers and would like to see Wikipedia’s articles and language offerings expand.

“The people who start a new language on Wikipedia, they may be starting when most of the people who speak their language are not online yet, but they are putting down a base line of something that other people will find interesting, and attractive, and worthwhile to go online for, and will get them involved in this global conversation,” said Wales.

Wales has also founded Wikia, a company that is currently expanding to work on free access programs in other areas of the internet.

“The big project that Wikia is working on is a search engine,” said Wales. “People know of Yahoo! and Google and places where you can search for things on the internet. But they keep it very secret as to how they do their work, how they decide which sites to show you and which they don’t. I want to bring a little bit of the Wikipedia style openness and transparency and freely licensed software to the search industry. That’s a lot of fun, it’s got a lot of attention, and we are just getting started on that project.”

Part of his first trip to South Africa is to see the state of technology in the country, according to Wales. He said that stopping at Bush Radio was among the things on his agenda that would allow a global community to be built.

“I want to help, but I can’t do anything myself. It’s all about the community. But if I can help my community understand better what people’s needs are, then we can all work together on it.”

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