Cape Town - South Africa is set to become the first African country to establish a local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the largest online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

There are around 30 chapters of the Wikimedia Foundation internationally and many are spread across Europe.

There are also chapters in the US and UK.

But now, as South Africa establishes its own chapter, there will be a drive for more local users to contribute to Wikipedia and write in their home languages.

There are also plans to use the site to publicise noteworthy community projects.

African Commons, a Gauteng-based non-profit organisation, is one of the groups involved in establishing the local chapter.

Kerryn Mckay, one of African Commons’s directors, said a call was sent to all “Wikipedians” last year to discuss the establishment of a local chapter.

It was decided to form the branch as a non-profit organisation to further the foundation’s goals of expanding access to free content.

Mckay said the proposal was posted on Meta-Wiki, where projects are open for comment.

The foundation’s chapter committee is reviewing the application and its by-laws. Mckay said it was likely to be up and running in about two months.

The foundation has several arms, of which Wikipedia is the best known.

Mckay said the local branch would have different objectives, but some of the goals would be Wikipedia based. One would be to increase the number of entries in some of the official languages. There are around 17 000 Afrikaans entries and only 209 Zulu entries. Only 116 entries are in isiXhosa.

For some languages, such as Ndebele, there are no entries.

“Afrikaans has a great following because they have traditionally been online, but some of the other languages are used more in rural areas, where there is less access.

“One of the goals will be to get more activity.”

There would also be entries on community projects.

The foundation would also raise funds and arrange outreach projects.

Internationally, the foundation wanted to “blur the lines” between Wikipedia contributors and users.

Mckay said this would be one of the local chapter’s aims.

“There are fewer contributors, and we want to see that increasing.”

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