The Case for Wikipedia Activism in Africa (Part I)
This post discusses using Wikipedia editing by Africans as a form of activism to increase representation of marginalized groups, hold leaders accountable for wrongdoing, and balance dominant narratives.
Wikipedia activism refers to purposefully editing Wikipedia to fight for the rights of marginalized groups and ensure their stories are told. This includes adding details to pages about governments, leaders, and other powerful entities that have abused or oppressed people. The goal is to hold them accountable and prevent whitewashing of their legacies.
In Ghana, this form of activism is sorely needed. Despite being home to over 30 million people and more than 100 ethnic groups, Ghana as an example of a typical African country, has very little representation on Wikipedia; with fewer than 50,000 articles mentionioning the country. This accounts for just 0.3% of Wikipedia’s content. This lack of digital representation mirrors wider societal inequalities.
Minority groups, women, rural communities, and ordinary citizens in Africa often have their stories left out of historical narratives or news coverage. Ghanaian activists have employed street protests, boycotts, and advocacy to fight marginalization. Now in the internet age, editing Wikipedia provides a new tool.
By adding factual details about Ghanaian leaders’ misdeeds, biases, and abuses to their Wikipedia pages, citizens can push for accountability. The same is true for ethnic conflicts, corrupt systems, and topics often suppressed by those in power. Expanding Wikipedia entries on under-covered events, groups, and cultural practices also enables more voices to be heard.
Mass Wikipedia activism also has the power to shape Google search results and global perceptions about Africa. The more edited pages exist, the more balance and visibility marginalized narratives gain.
Ordinary Ghanaians can advance this form of digital activism by:
- Organizing edit-a-thons to collaboratively add Ghanaian topics Making Wikipedia editing part of school programs
- Focusing edits on leaders/officials who have undermined human rights
- Building articles about major moments in ethnic group histories
- Adding nuance and details to existing articles about Ghana
It only takes small acts by many to grow Africa’s presence on the world’s largest knowledge platform. By becoming Wikipedia activists, citizens have a new way to fight injustice, demand change, and tell a more complete story about their country. They have the power to influence history’s first draft.