Lead SA boosts SA's digital footprint

Active citizenship initiative, Lead SA, is calling on South Africans to contribute and edit SA-related content on online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Joanne Carew
By Joanne Carew, ITWeb Cape-based contributor.
Johannesburg, 20 Sept 2013

Less than 10% of articles in the English edition of Wikipedia was created by people outside Europe and North America.

The online, editable encyclopaedia boasts more than four million articles in English and is one of the top 10 most popular sites on the Web.

In the run-up to Heritage Day, Lead SA partners Primedia Broadcasting and The Independent Group, in collaboration with Wits University and the University of Cape Town, hosted a Wikipedia Wordathon at the Wits University campus, in Johannesburg, yesterday.

The aim of the event, and of the initiative itself, was to encourage South Africans to help populate Wikipedia with locally generated content ahead of SA's 20th anniversary of democracy on Freedom Day, 27 April 2014.

"Lead SA is celebrating our heritage and 20 years of democracy, and this project allows us to reflect South African stories on a platform that has 470 million visitors every month," said Colin Cullis, digital content producer at Primedia.

The LAN-style event saw Wikipedia representatives, journalists, media personalities and academics coming together to add a South African voice to the Wikipedia story, and to improve the range and accuracy of information about SA.

Some of the articles that were edited during the day-long event included entries about the Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, Western Cape township Gugulethu - which was edited in isiXhosa - and SA's syrup-coated dessert, the koeksister.

"When you sit there working on something uniquely South African, it gives you a sense of pride knowing you're contributing to our heritage. In fact, I would go as far as to say - even though my contribution was adding to an entry about koeksisters - it was the most meaningful way I had ever celebrated our national heritage in the run-up to Heritage Day," said Gasant Abarder, Eyewitness News Cape Town editor.

Get involved

To make a contribution or to edit existing articles, users must register for a Wikipedia account. The user will have to edit various articles that already exist on the site before they are permitted to write a new article, which must adhere to Wikipedia's referencing and style guidelines.

The user should then send the article name or URL to

"Our effort to add to the information about South Africa available to those that search Wikipedia would not only help inform them about the country, but also potentially help them make better decisions about visiting or investing in South Africa. For locals, it is the opportunity to get credible information that is easy to find," said Cullis.

To learn more about the initiative, visit the Lead SA Projects page.