Wikimedia sees boost for languages online with India office

The creation of Wikimedia's first overseas office outside the United States could lead to the increased use of Indian languages online, the company's co-founder said on Sunday.

Jimmy Wales said Wikimedia, a non-profit organisation which owns the user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia, is currently looking for a location in India for its operation and could start within six months.

He told an audience in the country's commercial capital, Mumbai, that he hoped the small team would lead to the creation of "at least 100,000 substantive articles" in the top 10 Indian languages on the site by 2015.

"I think this is a ridiculously easy goal... a no-brainer," he said. "If we really focus our attention, there could be no reason why we can't easily surpass this.

"I think it's going to be easy to put 200,000, 250,000 (articles) in this time period."

Wikipedia was set up in 2001 and has since grown into one of the largest online brands.

It currently has some 16 million articles in more than 270 different languages and receives nearly 78 million visitors every month as of January this year, its website says.

Wales said he hoped the support of Wikimedia staff would help boost the number of active Indian contributors, as Internet access increases across the country and demand grows for content in indigenous languages.

"The local language versions of Wikipedia across India are growing and becoming more important," he said.

As it stands, the Hindi version of the encyclopedia has the most number of pages, with just under 58,000 as of Sunday afternoon, with Telugu - spoken predominantly in south India - next on nearly 46,000, he added.

There were nearly 3.5 million pages in English as of Sunday.

More than 20 languages are spoken in India and there was a need to "catalyse (online) participation" of the hundreds of millions of people who do not speak English, he said.

Two to four staff would be in India on a temporary basis, working with the local chapter to find and train new contributors, increase usage of the site and provide technical support, he added.

Wales said a similar project to boost pages in Arabic could be a possibility in the future.