Wikipedia, the world's free online encyclopedia that is one of most visited sites after Google with 375 million visitors a month, will shortly be launching an India office -- probably in Mumbai -- besides setting up an India Chapter of the Wiki Foundation, the owners of Wikipedia and its other arms, in Bangalore said.
"We will be launching the Wiki Foundation's India Chapter in Bangalore shortly and an India office of Wikipedia by early 2011," Wikimedia Foundation chief global development officer Barry Newstead told PTI in an interaction here today.
On whether opening an India office involves setting up a server here, he said, "Our servers are based in the US only, and India will have a caching centre to make the site faster."
"We have already registered the India Chapter under the Karnataka Charitable Societies' Act and soon we will be launching this actively," Newstead said further.
On the location of the proposed office, he said, it could be either in Mumbai, New Delhi or in Bangalore as it is yet to be finalised.
Newstead, who left his plum job with the Boston Consultancy Group to join the executive management team of Wikimedia as chief global development officer in June 2010, is here to scout for a national programme director for India and to choose the best city to open the India office.
"I always have a passion for education and knowledge, and hence my decision to make a career working on social issues," is how Newstead described his decision to quit his BCG job and take up this low-paying job.
"The top priority of the Wikimedia Foundation is to support growth of communities of Wikimedians in India from across the multitude of languages here," Newstead said.
"We are planning to work with the community to spread the word about Wikimedia's work with the goal of enabling millions more Indians to contribute to and benefit from Wikimedia's free knowledge projects," he added.
Though Wikipedia is available in all the official languages in the country barring Dongri, the Foundation will focus on more local content in top 10 languages here, he said.
On what makes India special, he said, "India is important to us, as it's the fourth-largest country in terms of Internet users with about 80 million users and is projected to touch 150 million in the next five years. Also, there is a very vibrant Wiki network here."
The Wiki Foundation is a non-profit organisation and depends solely on donations to meet its expenses. It operates several free online collaborative projects such as Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource, Wikimedia, Wikimedia Incubator, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews,
Wikiversity, and Meta-Wiki. Its flagship project, Wikipedia,
ranks among the top ten most-visited websites worldwide.
Wikipedia is almost entirely run by volunteers and has just 45 employees. Its revenue model is donations from individuals who believe in the philosophy of sharing knowledge, and organisations.
"Last year we had received donations from 2.5 lakh people, raising USD 15 million. In fact, made some $2 million profit last year. Our budget for this year is $20 million," Wikimedia's Barry Newstead said.
On donations from India, Newstead said, it is very minimal now and hence his job is to increase the awareness about the Foundation's voluntary, charitable nature and increase donations from here. Since the launch of the India chapter under the Karnataka Charitable Societies Act, all donations will attract income tax deductions too, he said.
The Foundation solely depends on word-of-mouth for publicity and till five years ago it didn't even have a single staff.
In 2005, the Foundation hired employees for the first time and in 2009 embarked on its first-ever strategy development project, once again through a voluntary and participatory process, which elicited over 700 proposals.
Globally, it has around one lakh active editors/ volunteer writers and tens of thousands of passive ones. In India, it has about 1,500 active editors and 16 administers, said Newstead.
Currently, its maximum readers and contributors come from the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.