24 April 2017, Monday

LDF keralam website and wikipedia

Shiju Alex

For a language wiki community, the best support that it can get is the support from the home state where that language is spoken.

Malayalam wiki community is fortunate to receive the support (at least from 2008 onwards) from Kerala State Government or various other organizations which allowed us to execute various projects (wiki meetups, wiki workshops, wikipedia CD project, wiki FAQ book, and so on).

Map of Kerala - Districtwise division. Prepared by Malayalam wikipedian Rajesh Odayanchal and released under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

But I would like to specially mention the various indirect support that we received from State Government.

  • Way back in 2008, Kerala Government had officially announced that it is changing the license of Govt. sponsored print encyclopedia project (expert-written-encyclopedia) of Malayalam (sarvavijanakosam) to GFDL. This was done in 2008 December while Jimmy and Sue were in Thiruvananthapuram to attend the free software conference. Now since the license of that encyclopaedia is compatible with the license of Wikipedia, Malayalam community is able to reuse its content to develop many Malayalam wikipedia articles. We are still in the process of slowly migrating the content from this expert-written-encyclopedia to enhance many existing stub articles of Malayalam wikipedia. (But we are not blindly copy pasting content since the language style and the usage of words of this encyclopedia is bit different from the style of Malayalam wikipedia)
  • Setting up of school wiki (wikipedia article) and there by teaching children about wiki culture and wiki editing in schools itself. Remember they are the future torch bearers of Malayalam wiki projects.
  • Teaching of Malayalam Inscript typing in schools. Due to this, a major road block to contribute to Malayalam wiki proejcts is removed for future Malayalam wikiepdians.
  • Introducing a lesson about Malayalam Wikipedia and its sister projects in school syllabus.
  • …. and many others

All the points that I mentioned above have indirectly helped us (Malayalam wiki community) to spread our wings. The good thing is, all the above things are done by Government with out our intervention or lobbying. But later we assisted government officials with few of the above things.

We know that in western countries various Government and NGO organizations support wikimedia movement indirectly like this. For example, in the past many such organizations made the license of their website into some free license (that is compatible with the licensing policy of wikimedia projects), so that the wiki projects were able to reuse the content and images.

Now I am happy to make announcement regarding a similar indirect support that we received from a political party (actually a coalition of political parties) of Kerala. Left Democratic Front (LDF) is the current ruling coalition of Kerala. Now it is election time in Kerala and LDF has setup a website as part of their election campaign. It is available here: http://ldfkeralam.org There are few things that is unique about this website.

This is the first time a political party of Kerala is presenting the website in Malayalam!

I know that this is surprising for most of the people from West. But this is a fact. Leave apart the parties from different States of India. Look at the website of 2 major political parties of India; Indian National Congress (INC – Wikipedia article) and Bharathiya Janatha party (BJP – Wikipedia article). At the time of writing this article, the content of both the website is available only in English. Even the other official language of Central Govt of India (Hindi) is no where in picture. So there is no need to think about providing the content in the other 2o official languages of India. I assume the case might be similar across all Indian political parties and states. IT wing of most of the Indian states still didn’t understood the importance of having websites in regional languages. And the worst part is, some of them (which have websites in regional language) are still in the ASCII era.

Another unique thing about http://ldfkeralam.org website is that the site is released under CC-BY-SA 2.5 IN license. This is the first time such a thing is happening in Kerala from the part of a political party. I do not know about the political parties in other Indian states. But at least in Kerala this is the first time such a thing is happening.

As a consequence of this, wiki community could use photos (and the content also) of some of the notable LDF candidates. Also since the content and images are free, citizens could freely use it across web for their blog, buzz, and so on.

We were able to use the photographs (and content) of some 25 left front notable politicians in Malayalam wikipedia. Many of these images are useful in English wikipedia also.

MA Baby - Current Education Minister of Kerala. Image Couutsey - LDF Keralam website - Content and images of website are licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.5 IN

Later when other district committees of LDF (and LDF candidates) started their own website they also followed it since the mother site is using a free license. There were cases of some district committees using NC/ND license. But they corrected it as soon as Malayalam wikipedians pointed the issue of using non-free licenses. Now there are many LDF sites using the free license.

I foresee that this policy change by LDF will have huge impact on the free software culture of Kerala. Of course Wiki projects will benefit much from this policy change. As mentioned by a notable Malayalam wikipedian, this will even force other political parties to think about changing the license of their website to something similar.

I congratulate the LDF team for doing a great job in this regard. Already the adoption of free license is helping LDF in various ways. I hope when next government is formed (during 2011 May) in Kerala, lot of things will happen in favor of free software movement. Malayalam wikimedians are ready to provide any support to make those things happen.