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Volunteer-crafted Bengali Wikipedia crosses landmark 10,000 articles mark September 28, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Connectivity.

The Bengali Wikipedia, a Web-based free-content multilingual encyclopedia project, has cross the landmark of 10,000 articles. It became the 50th language to do so, and only the second from South Asia.

The Telugu wikipedia now has over 15,000 articles.

Wikipedia — now among the top 20 most-visted sites worldwide — is an unusual venture that harnesses the work of worldwide volunteers to build a sharable, and copyright-unencumbered field of knowledge. It tries to do so in diverse languages.

Wikipedia exists as a wiki, a website that allows any visitor to freely edit its content, which can be accessed via its wikipedia.org cyberhome.

“Bengali is spoken by almost 220-250 million people, making it the seventh largest language in terms of total speakers. Bengali Wikipedia — http://bn.wikipedia.org — has seen a growth from 500 articles in March 2006 to 10,000 as of now,” announced Ragib Hasan, a PhD student at the Dept of Computer Science in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Ragib says there are now 20-25 active volunteer-editors who edit Bengali wikipedia on a regular basis.

“These editors are mainly from Bangladesh, and also from West Bengal (India). The main thrust has been the Bangladesh Open Source Network (BDOsn), and the Bangla Wiki project, which has raised awareness, involved the media, and recruited more editors to work on Bengali Wikipedia,” he commented in a internal discussion within the Wikipedia networks.

He said they also have an article improvement projects, aiming at having at least 1000 or so good articles (similar to English wikipedia) by May 2007.

For reasons ranging from poor connectivity to a lack of volunteers, and earlier technical problems in writing non-Roman script languages online, to a simple lack of awareness, the participation has been far lower from Asia,
particular South Asia.

In late August, Wikipedia founder Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales had said during an Indian tour that some Indian languages like Kannada and Bengali were seeing “fairly high” growth rates, over a small base.

He had then said: “It’s (participation by Indian languages) not as bad as it was a year ago. Gee we have almost nothing, then…. Hindi, which is a very large language (in terms of numbers of speakers) has only 1500 entries. That’s a little surprising,” he said.

Wikipedia, meaning wiki and encyclopedia, is written collaboratively by volunteers. It allows most articles to be changed by almost anyone with access to the website.

The English wikipedia has 1.4 million entries.

Japanese — with a quarter million entries — has been the only non-European language among the ‘big ten’ language of the Wikipedia.

But Farsi, Arabic, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia,have been among those with 10,000+ articles. In the 1000+ articles category are Urdu, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, among others.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is expected for his second visit in India, in two months, shortly.

Meanwhile, an 18-month old ‘Wikipedia for India’ network on the social networking site Orkut has some 215 members and says it wants to build this into “the place where u can find info on anything from Hindu mythology to Besant Nagar beach…or Connaught Place.”


Global info and communication technology imbalance causing “new inequalities” September 24, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Connectivity.
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Imbalanced access to communication technologies has generated new inequalities, according to Social Watch — a coalition of 400 non-governmental organisation in 60 countries.

Social Watch monitors government compliance with international commitments to development and gender equity. Its annual report, widely recognized as an independent study on social development, has just been released.

It says in its latest report:

“More than four fifths of the people in the world do not have access to Internet and are therefore disadvantaged when it comes to making progress in production, education, and constructing full citizenship.”

Social Watch points out that in the most backwards regions, “investment in new technologies is not geared to spreading them on a large scale.”

It’s study on this issue is titled ‘Information, Science and Technology: Digital gap, people gap’. This is a reference to the widely debated ‘digital divide’, but a hint that the divide is reflected among people too and also affects them.

It judged different countries on a range of select indicators — internet users per thousand people, personal computers, telephone mainlines, scientists and engineers in R&D (per million people), expenditure on information and communication technology (as a percentage of the gross domestic product, and expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP.

Says the report:

“For some years now, the experts have been talking about the new ‘information society’ (and more recently about the ‘knowledge society’), and the challenges and dangers it involves.”

But it suggests that the “capability to manage information” is increasingly important.

It notes that, currently, 40% of Canada and the US have access to the Internet, but in Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure is only 2% or 3%. Narrowing this gap is a major challenge, it adds.

There are currently not “one digital gap”, but several, it suggests. This is because people’s access to current information systems “is conditional upon a series of factors”.

People simply get “left out” from using the new technology because of factors like economic resources, geography, age, gender, language, education, cultural background, employment and physical well-being.

“Access to personal computers is a pre-requisite for access to the new sources of information,” it cautions.

One billion internet users on the planet is a “great success story”. But the 80% still left out can’t be ignored too. UNESCO says 90% of internet users are from the ‘industrialised’ world.

Social Watch’s report says praises China for jumping from “almost no broadband subscribers” to 23 million in just three years. It says technological scientific development in a country “depends to a large extent” on government decisions.

It says,

“It is clear that State investment is a key factor…. This is what is happenign in China, where the current surge in ICT has been underpinned by a big increase in State investment in R&D, which jumped from 0.83% of GDP in 1999 to 1.23% in 2002.”

This was giving China an edge not only in ICT but also in fields like bio-technology.

Also stressed was the amount of human capital that each country has, in the form of researchers and scientists.

It says,

“Put simply, a country’s ability to take advantage of the new information systems is connected to its capacity to revalue its culture, traditions and values, and this revaluation should involve full integration into the modern world.”

Social Watch cautions that if a poor country cannot manage this, “It will remain as a receiver of information and it will be limited to a passive role in the information society”.

Giving figures to measure the ‘size of the digital gap’, the study says, “In the most developed countries, there are 563 computers per 1000 people; but in the most backward there are only around 25 per 1000 people, which is to say there are 20 times more in the developed world. That is just one measure of the size of the digital gap.”

Pakistan’s first private sector fibre optic cable goes live August 8, 2006

Posted by R.S in Connectivity, Pakistan.
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On 28 July 2006, Pakistan’s first private sector submarine fibre-optic cable system called Transworld-1 (TW-1) was launched. The aim of this initiative is to offer global end-to-end connectivity solutions through a state-of-the-art network, according to the bandwidth provider.

The aforementioned fibre-optic cable system is the third one for Pakistan, after two similar ones which belong the SEAMEWE series.This development is expected to bring about a vast improvement on the situation last year when between June 27 and July 8 Pakistan’s sole cable link with the outside world was snapped, resulting in an internet breakdown throughout the country.

Transworld Associates Limited — the organisation behind the project — claims that the new cable system has been designed to provide high availability and to ensure minimal error rate, thus empowering the users to enjoy reliable international connectivity.

The 1,250-km-long TW-1 cable system connects Karachi to Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The segment is installed with a single Power Switched Branching Unit. A branch segment leads to Al Seeb, Sultanate of Oman. In November of 2005, TW-1 cable shore ends were successfully landed by an e-marine cable ship CS Etisalat at Fujairah, UAE, Al Seeb, Sultanate of Oman, and Karachi.