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In India, an E-Gov Platform Inspired by Wikipedia

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, February 20 2014

In India, making the shift from paper to online (FriskoDude/Flickr)

On February 18 the Indian government launched an information website inspired by Wikipedia. Vikaspedia is available in five local languages, including English, and will eventually expand to include 22 more Indian languages.

Vikaspedia is described as “a knowledge portal targeting specific country needs in the domain of social development.” It has a particular objective to reach the “un-reached” communities in India.

Other than the name, Vikaspedia really seems to have very little in common with Wikipedia.

When launching the portal, J Satyanarayana, Secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, said, “Vikaspedia is part of democratisation [sic] of information. Earlier, for some information people had to pay but now most of it will be made available for which they don't have to pay.”

Wikipedia is not just about free access but about collaboration and the democratization of information creation and curation.

Vikaspedia, on the other hand, seems to maintain a hierarchical structure in which the creators (in this case, several government agencies) distribute information to the consumers:

Vikaspedia seeks to bridge the gap between the poor and development, by providing links to government, civil society groups / NGOs and private institutions. The ultimate goal is to create a service-oriented, people-friendly and demystified Information Technology (ICT) for Development in service of communities through country-wide collaborations. As the rural landscape in India is set to take the advantage of the flourishing ICT initiatives pioneered by various institutions, more specifically the Common Service Centres (CSCs), Vikaspedia offers the much required content and services in local languages that makes the difference in the lives of the people.

Categories of information found on Vikaspedia include agriculture, health, education, social welfare, energy and e-governance.

Last fall I wrote about a Wikipedia-inspired site in Rwanda called Rwandapedia, but in that case anyone really could edit and submit material for publication.

It is interesting that Wikipedia is inspiring new sites and platforms, but also raises the question of why the existing Wikipedia platform does not work for everyone. Clearly in India's case they did not seek to create an encyclopedia but rather an e-government platform. But why did Rwandans feel the need to start afresh?

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