Odia Wikisource Goes Live!

Posted by Subhashish Panigrahi at Oct 26, 2014 06:40 AM |
Odia netizens have more than one reason to celebrate this festive season.
Odia Wikisource Goes Live!

Odia Wikisource Screenshot

Odia Wikisource went live just before Deepavali and is now available for Odia readers who are eager to access Odia books online. There are over 40 million native Odia speakers living in Odisha and diaspora in the US, UK, UAE and other parts of the world and yet Odia Wikipedia currently only has 8441 articles (October 2014) as compared to Malayalam which has a comparable number of speakers and over 30,000 articles on the Malayalam Wikipedia. Internet is one of the largest sources of information.

Wikisource is an online library that holds notable published works that are in the public domain or are freely licensed as Creative Commons Share-Alike. Authors and publishers can now choose to donate their books and publications, and provide open access to readers.

Odia is the 11th Indic language to have this project, and is available at or.wikisource.org. Readers can now access many rare books, which are out of copyright, also reuse the content, and commercially reproduce the books with the power of.

None of the state's government portals in Odia have content in Unicode to make them searchable and reusable. The largest digital archive in Odia, a joint initiative of Pragati Utkal Sangha a Bhubaneswar based non-profit and National Institute of Technology Rourkela, created under the project Open Access to Oriya Books (OAOB) has over 740 books published between 1850 – 1950, which have been digitised. These are stored in a PDF format, which restricts searching of content.

Odia Wikisource went through a thorough and long approval process after it was incubated in late 2012, first by the Language Committee and then the Wikimedia Foundation's Board. Amir Aharoni, Member, Language Committee and software engineer, Wikimedia Foundation was of the opinion that Odia Wikisource, had tremendous potential, especially in educating children: "In schools in Odisha, are there lessons of Odia literature? If the answer is yes, then it can do a very simple thing - make these lessons more fun and help children learn more! Everybody says that in Kerala this worked very well with Malayalam literature."

An MoU was signed in January 2014 between Centre for Internet and Society’s Access To Knowledge (CIS-A2K) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), an educational non-profit that supports over 20,000 students from indigenous communities, to collaboratively spearhead open knowledge projects. However, it was later felt that students and faculty could use their time more effectively if they were taught to digitise Odia books on Odia Wikisource. Workshops have been conducted to train faculty, who in turn will teach students about typing more books on Wikisource. Nine faculty members and 45 students are chosen for this work in the first phase.

Earlier this year, fourteen books (13 in Oriya and one in English) pertaining to a range of subjects have been relicensed under Creative Commons License will be made available on Odia Wikisource. At present, three books have been digitised and proofread, and another is in the process of being digitised. KISS is also digitizing 11 books of Odia author Dr. Jagannath Mohanty that were relicensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 earlier this year, due to CIS-A2K’s efforts. Pankajmala Sarangi, a Wikisource writer, who had digitised two books and has played a key role in getting approval for Odia Wikisource says, "I would be happy to contribute by typing more books on Odia so that they can be stored and available to all. We can take this to masses through social, print and audio & visual media and organizing meetings/discussions." Five modern Odia poetry books from Odia poet Bharat Majhi and four books including one encyclopedia from notable Odia children litterateur Ramakrushna Nanda have been relicensed under CC-by-SA 4.0 recently. These books will soon see their digital versions on Odia Wikisource.

CIS-A2K has been instrumental in identifying four new Wikisource contributors to help to digitise the Odia Bhagabata, an Odia classic compiled in the 14th century. They will join five other Wikimedians who have been contributing on a regular basis to Odia Wikipedia. Wikipedia and Wikisource contributors are excited about this development and this is reflected in the quotes given below.

Odias around the globe will have access to a vast amount of old as well as new books and manuscripts online in the tip of their finger. Knowing more about the long and glorious history of Odisha will become easier,” says Mrutyunjaya Kar long time Wikimedian who proof-reads books on Odia Wikisource.

Saswat Kumar Swain, a Wikisource contributor says, “It is sad to see that there is not much information in Odia language even after it got the got classical status. This is a really nice initiative. I'd request all Odias to read Odia Wikisource and if possible contribute to make Odia Wikisource bigger & better.”

“As a contributor I find it is easier to edit in Wikisource than Wikipedia. I think common people will get more out of it than Wikipedia as the later is rather meant for people who need research type of article. The forgotten golden articles will surface to prove that old is gold,” says Dr. Subas Chandra Rout, Odia Wikisource contributor.

The project release took little more time because of various technical problems. User:MF-Warburg, admin of Wikisource who played a key role in helping to set the new wiki calmly tells the community, "glorious preparations take time" when Odia Wikimedian and Odia Wikisource's first admin Srikant Kedia pings him multiple times about the release of the project. Srikant, who has been active on Odia Wikipedia and done major work in connecting with the global community and fixing bugs says, "I speak Marwari at home as it is my mother-tongue, I studied in an English medium school as English is a common language worldwide and a need of today. And I am associated with Odia Wikiprojects as Odia is my janmabhumi (motherland) language. My great grandfather came to Odisha over 100 years ago and this language is very precious for me. It is my pleasure to promote Odisha and Odia language."

Preetinanda Roy, KISS's lecturer and coordinator of the KISS-Wikisource project feels that the students learn a lot during workshops and Wikisource write-a-thons. She is currently helping 8 of her colleagues at KISS to train 45 students to digitize books on Odia Wikisource.

Odia Wikisource offers a breath of fresh air for online readers who are eager to access and make available free open content in Odia.