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Wikipedia turns to India for expansion

India was chosen because of its large population and increasing number of people using the internet, especially through mobile phones, said Wikipedia chief Sue Gardner.

twitter-logo PTI   New York     Last Updated: January 13, 2011  | 16:31 IST

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is set to open its first overseas office outside of the United States, in India, which will focus on expanding its database in Hindi and all other official languages of the country.

India was chosen because of its large population and increasing number of people using the internet, especially through mobile phones, according to Sue Gardner, chief of Wikimedia, which is the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia.

"India is really high potential for us," Gardner told PTI.

Gardner noted that India was picked as the first base abroad in the developing world because of its "fruitful environment", including "valuing education, free speech and a culture of intellectual debate."

She highlighted that the current database in Indian languages existed but was small, and the India office would push for growth in this area.

"We want to attract new people to edit the encyclopedia," she said.

After India, the San Francisco-based online encyclopedia plans to expand to Brazil and then to West Asia and North Africa. Wikipedia, in the coming years, will also be pushing to increase the information it provides in non-English languages.

Currently, Gardner pointed out there were "software impediments to interaction" in foreign languages like Tamil or Hindi, which Wikipedia would be working to remove.

Wikipedia is close to selecting the person who will head the India office, which is expected to open in the next couple of months with a small staff "in one of the big cities".

Wikipedia is currently the world's fifth most popular site, which operated on a budget of $8 million last year, which is far less than other top sites.

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