Black Digital Empowerment Through AfroCROWD workshops

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Alice Backer

Throughout the history of humankind, access to technology has exposed human beings to democracy, international trade, globalization, development, healthcare, a market based economy, war, peace, innovation, knowledge, power, and of course, information. 

In the 21st century, one of the most powerful, accessible, and widely used digital based informational system is Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, “since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites, attracting over 470 million unique visitors monthly.” Furthermore, Wikipedia claims that “there are more than 76,000 active contributors working on more than 31,000,000 articles in 285 languages. As of today, there are over 4,700,633 articles in English. Every day, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world collectively make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to augment the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia.” Moreover, according to Wikipedia, last year, “it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.  Globally, Wikipedia had more than 22 million accounts, out of which there were over 73,000 active editors as of May 2014.”

Thus, in what manner can people of African descent be accurately represented among the body of articles and among the editors in Wikipedia? The answer is found in the Afro Free Culture Crowdsourcing Wikimedia’s (AfroCROWD) workshops.

AfroCROWD is a dynamic, new initiative which seeks to increase the number of Africans, at home and abroad, who actively partake in Wikimedia along with the free knowledge, culture and software movements. Thus, the AfroCROWD workshops are open to all Africans and their descendants.

Against the backdrop of Black Wiki History Month Weekend, the AfroCROWD workshops seek to further the International Decade for People of African Descent’s developmental, educational, informational, and digital goals as well as Wikimedia’s goal of increasing its global reach. Therefore, under the umbrella of AfroCrowd, Black is not only beautiful and powerful; it is also informational, digital, and global.

Digital companies, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Instagram, and Twitter have recently reported that their workforce is 2% Black, a figure non-proportionate to the 13% of Blacks living in the United States. Furthermore, Blacks and Latinos use Instagram more so than whites. Moreover, it is an established fact that African Americans, between the ages of 18-29 who are urban residents are the majority of users in Twitter – thus, helping to give Twitter an estimated worth of $5.25 billion and making it one of the largest digital companies in the world. Other behemoths are Facebook, Google, and newly-launched Chinese-based Alibaba.

According to a demographic study of digital usage, “African Americans and Technology Use,” the Pew Research Center finds that “African Americans have exhibited relatively high levels of Twitter use since we began tracking the service as a stand-alone platform, and this continues to be the case – 22% of online blacks are Twitter users, compared with 16% of online whites.” 

However, the Pew Research Center notes that “African Americans have long been less likely than whites to use the internet and to have high speed broadband access at home,” where “today, African Americans trail whites by seven percentage points when it comes to overall internet use (87% of whites and 80% of blacks are internet users), and by twelve percentage points when it comes to home broadband adoption (74% of whites and 62% of blacks have some sort of broadband connection at home). At the same time, blacks and whites are on more equal footing when it comes to other types of access, especially on mobile phones.”

The “Black Twitter” phenomenon shows that African Americans have successfully used social media as an empowering organizational tool. Therefore, exposing more people of African descent to Wikipedia will take this foray a step further. Furthermore, at a global level, it will transfer marketable skills and produce knowledge that will deepen their exploration of online technology and digital usage. Moreover, editing Wikipedia alone or as a group is a constructive and rewarding way to spend time online.

Although the AfroCROWD workshops will be held in English; AfroCROWD will take into account the diverse, global African groups in the United States who might find access to Wikipedia’s multilingual crowdsourcing platform useful to them as well as African descendants outside of the United States. In addition, multilingual African descendants may also want to use such platforms to develop and maintain online bodies of relevant knowledge in native languages such as Haitian Kreyòl, Garifuna, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Swahili, Zulu, Hausa, Twi, Igbo, Yoruba, etc., – thus, contributing to the survival of those languages while increasing their proficiency and usage given the economic, political, cultural, and global role and relevance of languages within a digital economy.

That is why AfroCROWD has attracted influential partners, such as the Haitian Creole Language Institute, the Yoruba Cultural Institute, and the Afrolatin@ Project,which are vested in promoting the survival of the languages and cultures of their respective groups.

Accordingly, for Wynnie Lamour, founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute, an institution that focuses primarily on creating a dedicated platform for the study of Haitian Creole, “it's important that there is access to information on the language that is clear, well-cited, and accurate. The AfroCROWD workshops will provide the Haitian Creole Language Institute and its members with the tools to participate first-hand in creating, curating, and updating this type of scholarly information.” Lamour, who plans to collaborate with AfroCROWD, added: “The Wiki training will allow us to strategically place ourselves at the forefront of the current movement of elevating the status of the Haitian Creole language and providing its speakers with a relevancy that is well-deserved and long overdue.”

AfroCROWD was founded by proud Haitian native and prominent Brooklyn-based lawyer Alice Backer.

Attorney Backer is also the CEO of Kiskeacity.com and HaitianBloggers.com.

Backer has been aggregating and disseminating Haitian online expression since 2005 while launching citizen media campaigns in Haiti, the Caribbean, Africa and the United States.

Thus, for Backer, “AfroCROWD is a great opportunity to make sure that people of African descent are accurately represented. If there is something on Wikipedia that you know and can prove is inaccurate or missing, you can change or add it yourself. You just need to find out how and that’s why we’re here.”

Backer also added that “Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia based on a model of openly editable content. It is written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles. Users can contribute anonymously, under a pseudonym, or, if they choose to, with their real identity.”

The AfroCROWD workshops will commence during Black Wiki History Month Weekend on Feb. 7th and 8th. 

To register for the AfroCROWD workshops, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/afrocrowd-intro-to-wikimedia-how-to-edit-wikipedia-101-tickets-15350655223

For further information about AfroCROWD, please visit https://www.facebook.com/afroCROWD or www.afrocrowd.org

 

Professor Patrick Delices is a political analyst/commentator for the Black Star News and the author of “The Digital Economy,” Journal of International Affairs. For nearly a decade, Prof. Delices has taught Africana Studies at Hunter College.

He also served as a research fellow for the late Pulitzer Prize recipient, Dr. Manning Marable at Columbia University. Prof. Delices can be contacted at pd149@columbia.edu

 

 

 

 

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