Electromagnetic Savannah
Commentary on science, technology and economics in Nigeria and beyond

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wikipedia offers access offline

Here's another news story from the BBC about plans to provide offline access to Wikipedia content by putting selected articles on a CD. The idea would benefit those not connected to the web access to knowledge in the online encyclopaedia, says Wikimedia, the organisation behind the the plans.

I'm not really sure at who precisely these plans are aimed at. There's talk of it benefitting people who don't have web access, so perhaps it's targetted towards places like Africa where web access is patchy, to say the least. And perhaps it would be useful as an introductory medium, for example in schools. But beyond that, I can't really see how useful it would be - even in internet-starved countries, people still want to do serious research, not dip in and out of a selection of articles. And at £7 a disc, I think the appeal would fall even further.

But I do like the idea of an offline Wikipedia being provided for schools in Africa. The thing is, it wouldn't make much sense to provide all the content of Wikipedia at once - let's be honest, very few African children are likely to be interested in subjects such as
the Philadelphus purpurascens plant. So what would be a good idea is to provide a kind of proxy Wikipedia site that held content on a local hard disk and was updated with content periodically, depending on what search requests were made or links were clicked.

So if a student searched for a subject or if a link was clicked and the corresponding article wasn't found on the local hard disk, then the request for the page would be queued to a file on the disk, and periodically, this file would be taken another location where there was internet connectivity to get the articles that had been requested.

Yes, I know this would mean long waits at first - but the hope is that most students would tend to want to visit the same pages and after a while, the number of unsatisfied requests would get smaller and smaller. In fact, at such a point, the material collected could be used as a template for offline Wikipedia material for other schools (whose students might make similar requests). I also think that periodic wholesale refreshes of the information on the disc will be necessary because the articles may have been updated since.

Of course all this is just a stop-gap measure - the ultimate destination should not just be online access for all schools, but the proper training on how to use online media for maximum productivity.


  • Thanks for your comment on my blog, my future plans does include filming amongst other things, a lot of hard work at the moment, hope it pays off.



    By Blogger Shola, At 19 April 2007 at 23:55  

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