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Wikipedia Co-Founder Adding More African Languages

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales gestures during the opening session at the London Cyberspace Conference, November 1, 2011.

The co-founder of Wikipedia says the languages of Yoruba in West Africa and Swahili in East Africa are the most popular among the several African languages being used on the online encyclopedia.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, 45, says Yoruba is the most popular African language for Wikipedia, with 29,000 pages. The Swahili Wikipedia version is second among African languages with 23,000. Other African languages on Wikipedia include Afrikaans, Hausa, and Zulu.

Speaking in Lagos this week, Wales says his website is branching out from English.

"For a long time there was this sort of cultural concern as why do we have to do everything in English. What happens to local culture? Now we [are] going to have both," said Wales.

Wales founded Wikipedia in January 2001. Eleven years later, Wikipedia has become the go-to site for hundreds of millions of internet users seeking information about anything and everything. Its content is generated by thousands of self-appointed editors who write and rewrite the articles in an open, online process.

Wikipedia on has seven active editors working in Yoruba. But Wales hopes that more users for the online encyclopedia will appear in Yoruba as well as other African languages.

“Not everybody speaks English and won't," Wales noted. "So they should have a vibrant life in their own language. And that’s really great because it’s very organic and the internet provides that in a way for very low cost.”

But challenges such as internet connectivity in Africa remain. And Wales notes that getting people to work in languages besides English is not easy. The English version of Wikipedia has nearly four million pages, far more than any other language, though several languages such as French, German, Spanish and Russian have 800,000 pages or more.