The Solution Will Not Be Televised
Moleskine Foundation (
In 2020, whilst most of the world discussed Coronavirus, millions could not join the conversation on the virus because the information was not available in their language. We launched a campaign called ‘The Solution Will Not be Televised’ calling to action African language speakers to translate Covid-19 related knowledge. To spark creativity in solutions to the problem, knowledge was needed about what the situation was. Therefore, translating knowledge about Covid-19 contributed to help people locally understand and create new and useful solutions as a response, which in some cases could be life-saving.
We are gathering a movement of volunteers to translate the 10 most relevant articles to help spark creative solutions to the pandemic in African languages. Our focus is ‘stationary facts’, not competing with TV and radio for latest updates, but people need to know (for example) what social distancing is. We chose to translate the following articles, and more where possible, across the contributing languages: 1. Covid-19 Simplified Base Document 2. Social Distancing/ Physical Distancing 3. Pandemic 4. Face masks 5. Airborne disease 6. Hand Washing 7. Diagnosis 8. Vaccine 9. Environment 10. Infectious diseases Our overall goals were: 1. Language coverage in 11 Niger-Congo languages 2. Production of 110 articles (10articles x in 11 languages) 3. Dissemination rate of 220k article views 4. Backing from Institutional partners
SDG4- Facilitating knowledge production in African languages, and supporting the access to information through Wikipedia is a direct aide to SDG4. SDG10- Reduced intellectual inequality by addressing knowledge gaps in health information. SDG11- Project fostered use of preservation of African languages and creative response to the pandemic. SDG17- Creation of a multi-stakeholder partnership with NGO’s and cultural organisations to support our collective future.
To reduce the margin of error in translation, we leveraged some support to create 10 simplified base documents for the articles. This meant simplifying information already on Wikipedia (and at times conducting further research) to the following specifications: 1. Shorten sentences and break up subordinate clauses (sentences within sentences). 2. Don’t make the information China-centric. Delete unnecessary focus on China, and keep the concept so it can be useful in other Geographies. 3. Simplify information to the main concept, simple explanations and supporting information or examples. 4. Keep the referencing of information in-tact. 5. Ensure there are no more than 6 sections 6. Aim for total of 1k to 1.5k words The base documents are available to our translators in French and English. Participants signed up remotely via our website, and were assigned an individual article to translate. Once checked for quality by linguistic experts, a team of experienced Wikimedians handled the technical aspects of uploading the knowledge to Wikipedia, thereby plugging the online knowledge gaps in these languages. We maintained communications via email, and addressed training needs when identified with a training sessions on Zoom. The list of languages for articles ranged across the following : Twi, Kiswahili, Sesotho, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Afrikaans, Shona, Wolof, Yoruba, Fula/Pulaar, Igbo, Hausa, Tshivenda, Setswana, Luo, Eleme and Dagbani
1. Language coverage in 11 Niger-Congo languages: 17 languages covered 2. Production of 110 articles: Overall we managed to engage over 400 participants to produce about 200 3. Dissemination rate of 220k article views: articles have been viewed more than almost total of 1million. 4. Backing from Institutional partners: involvement of partners such as Constitution Hill Trust, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Fondazione Aurora. We know from email feedback and training calls that participants felt a large sense of pride and public service in creating their articles. There was also a great sense of unity and Pan-Africanism which was refreshing considering some regions were experiencing phases of xenophobia. Positive unexpected spill-over of intergenerational involvement as youth would ask elders for support with grammar or vocabulary. We learned we needed to run more training sessions, and emphasize for participants to complete uploads of their own documents to Wikipedia themselves.
Enabling factors: • Having a strong purpose, and an inspiring goal, was reported to be a motivating factor for many participants. • Clear and direct instructions were what let each stakeholder know what was expected from their involvement. Constraints: • Familiarity with Google docs and general digital literacy was a true challenge. Despite being the simplest user interface we could propose, it proved foreign and challenging for some. • Internet connectivity was a huge challenge as signal quality and cost is not great in many of the territories collaborating with us.
Regarding Sustainability: our practice brought involved 8 project partners, whose commitment supported the creation and dissemination of the Wikipedia articles and campaign materials. Regarding Replicability: our working method was fit for collaboration with numerous Wikipedia chapters (communities of users) across Africa. Also we created infrastructure/tools such as our website, use of our social media channels, a Wikimedia dashboard, and the network of partners. These are all components which can be reactivated. Our AfroCuration event format gives us the opportunity to engage youth in knowledge production in a various communities across Africa and the diaspora. Whilst content themes and topics are developed alongside our local cultural partners, Moleskine Foundation have the capacity to suggest COVID related topics in order to reactivate this line of work. We have a series of AfroCuration events planned for 2021, which will mostly need to be online due to COVID restrictions.
The initiative was born as a direct response to the Covid-19 emergency. It is a component part of a wider and ongoing initiative called WikiAfrica Education (WAE) which runs at the Moleskine Foundation. The WAE program aims include supporting access to knowledge by “increasing production, access and awareness of contextually and linguistically relevant knowledge resources from African continent.” Of specific relevance here is the practical application of accessibility to health related and scientific knowledge regarding Covid-19. The more informed and aware people are on the pandemic, the greater their capacity to respond creatively to the situation and build back better.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Deliverables & Timeline
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