Bengaluru being the IT capital of the country has made little difference to Kannada’s presence in the cyber world. Compare any major Indian language on Wikipedia with the 13-year-old Kannada language pages, and you are in for a surprise: Kannada occupies the 10th place among Indian languages, while Urdu occupies the first slot in terms of number of articles.
As on January 2016, the number of articles in Kannada Wikipedia is just 19,070, while Tamil (83,432), Telugu (64,451), and Malayalam (41,334) are way ahead. Urdu version occupies the first place with 1,10,367 articles and Hindi version follows with 1,00,912 articles.
As far as the world ranking of languages is concerned, Kannada stands 107th. It is interesting to note that Cebuano spoken by 21 million people and second most spoken language in the Philippines stands fourth in the list of global languages with 18,65,033 articles after English, Swedish, and German.
It has been 13 years since a small group of tech-savvy Kannadigas got together to create the first few article stubs on Kannada. This resulted in starting the Kannada language edition of Wikipedia in 2003.
Though the articles in Wikipedia pages drew flak for their lack of depth and quality initially, the site showed signs of improvement only to fall back again. Initially, it was the issue of fonts that came in the way of developing Kannada pages and interestingly very few people knew that Wikipedia could be written in a regional language.
Omshivaprakash, one of the five administrators of Wikipedia’s Kannada version, blames laxity in community participation for Kannada version’s poor show. “Authors, publishers, government bodies don’t seem to be confident enough to use Wikipedia platform. Not many show interest to learn and contribute,” he says.
Awareness of Kannada Wikipedia, lack of awareness about Kannada typing tools, Internet accessibility issues, and lack of self-motivated volunteers who can drive the Wiki learning activities are reasons for the slowdown, he says.
Admitting that Kannada Wikipedia is lagging behind in terms of quantity (number of articles), U.B. Pavanaja, another administrator, argued that it was however good in terms of quality.
Attributing the rise in number of articles in other Indian language versions, especially in Tamil and Telugu, to uploading government data, he said, “But we have not done that. Our focus was mainly on quality, rather than quantity and the intention is to make the page more theme-based. We have deleted some 2,000 articles to provide the content in Encyclopaedia format.”
According to him, things are now moving in a positive direction with more people showing interest in this community attempt.
Kannada Development Authority chairperson L. Hanumanthaiah said he would immediately convene a meeting of administrators of the Kannada version of Wikipedia and discuss the mode of support Kannada bodies could expend in enriching Kannada pages.
Spoken by (in millions)
No. of Wikipedia pages