iGmena Grassroots Community Engagement in Morocco: Wikipedia Conference  

21 Decembre, 2016

On November 26th, the National Institute of Posts and Telecommunications in Rabat hosted the first Wikipedia event ever organized in Morocco. The aims of the event were multiple. First of all, it was an occasion to raise awareness about the world’s biggest online knowledge sharing platform (Wikipedia), and its mother foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation. Second, the event gathered people interested about Wikipedia, whether long-time users or beginners who were interested in joining the Moroccan Wikipedia community and sharing their knowledge with the whole world. Finally, holding this event was an opportunity to talk about Internet Governance, and the importance of having a free Internet available for all, where everybody can access everything freely on the Net.

The event had two main parts. The first part consisted of different presentations to familiarize the public with different concepts regarding Internet Governance, open source, freedom of the Internet, and Wikipedia. The second part was dedicated to an Edit-a-thon. An Edit-a-thon is a workshop where all interested persons learn how to create or edit Wikipedia articles, in order to improve the content and to learn to be more active users in the future.

The first presentation was given by Ms. Asmae Daouadi, and was on the topic of Internet Governance and its importance for daily Internet users. It is in fact very important for all Internet users to be aware of their rights, especially regarding privacy and copyright. Many people are not aware of surveillance and that they have the right to privacy, even on the Internet. Not only that, but the Internet is a free tool that should guarantee everyone free access to all the resources they would like to visit. It is in this spirit that the Wikipedia online encyclopedia was created: In order to share free knowledge between all humans, without any borders, whether physical or abstract (language, social condition…). iGmena is one of the organizations that are keen on raising awareness about Internet Governance. Morocco being a part of the MENA region, it was then a convenient occasion to make the iGmena organization known at the conference and present their work to the Moroccan Wikipedia community.

The presentations then continued with Mr. Reda Benkhadra, the president of Wikimedia Morocco, who presented on two topics. The first was an introduction to Wikipedia in general, in order to present the encyclopedia and its concept on a generic level. Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia that allows everybody to write and edit articles on all areas. The concept of collaboration is both positive and negative, given that it allows a bigger number of articles, but that can be criticized in terms of quality. Wikipedia is, however, deploying many strategies to improve the quality of articles, especially with the collaboration of administrators and active reporters. The second presentation was about the Moroccan activities in Wikipedia, mainly the presence of Moroccan editors internationally in Wikipedia, and the projects related to Morocco that Moroccan Wikipedians work on.

The final two presentations were by Anass Sedrati, the project coordinator of Wikimedia Morocco. The first presentation was about Wikimedia Foundation and its related projects. Wikipedia is in fact not limited to an encyclopedia, but to many other projects, that can be about data, pictures, travels, languages, etc.

The second presentation was about how to make Wikipedia more Moroccan. One of the fundamental rights on the Internet is to make information available for all. In order to make this availability, content should be translated for instance into a variety of mother tongues, and not be elitist. In this context, Wikipedia has an incubator that supports different dialects around the world. A country like Morocco, with a variety of languages ranging from the most popular to the most elitist, indeed needs to offer information in all those languages. The Moroccan Wikipedia is trying to work with those challenges through encouraging sharing information for all. Wikipedia is now available even in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic and a variety of Amazigh (Berber) dialects. This step is very important to make information available to all, that everybody can access a free Internet in his or her own language, which is one of the pillars of Internet Governance.

The presentations were interactive and open to questions in order to exchange points of view and different opinions and comments. The event was then closed by an Edit-a-thon workshop, where the team answered technical questions about Wikipedia and demonstrated different methods and techniques for creating and editing articles in Wikipedia. The aim of the event was achieved by having the first Wikipedia and free knowledge event in Morocco. The hope in the future is to broaden the scope of Internet Governance and free knowledge to the larger public and raise awareness about those issues, in order to have broader participation and to increase the presence of the MENA region on the international Internet.

Anas Sedrati

Reference and further readings:

Interview with Hespress electronic newspaper (Moroccan Arabic):
Video of the complete event (In Moroccan Arabic):