In a recent trip to the clinic, the first source of medical information my doctor turned to was not one of the many books lining his shelves, but to Wikipedia. If you want to find medical information quickly and have access to the internet, Wikipedia is likely to be one of the first places you go to (whether you’re the patient or the doctor). Yet for those with limited or no English language, finding reliable medical information can be tricky. It was for this reason that we recently awarded a grant to Translators without Borders towards the cost of a project to translate the most important medical content on Wikipedia from English into Swahili.
Since we awarded the grant, the team of translators working in Nairobi have cracked on with the project and released the first batch of articles on to Swahili Wikipedia. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t speak a word of Swahili, but at first glance the articles would seem to be every bit as detailed as their English counterparts. So far, users can access articles on strep throat, anaphylaxis, the common cold, Hepatitis C, hypertension, Tuberculosis and gastroenteritis. Soon, Dengue fever, diabetes, pneumonia and others will be added to the list. The team are also already working on how the content can best be adapted for mobile phones and use by those without access to laptops and smartphones to reach the widest possible audience.
One of the most rewarding things about funding in the field of tech for social change is that is often very easy to track progress. Not only can I view Swahili Wikipedia whenever I want, but my job is made all the easier by the fact that Wikipedia’s medical team keep a running tally of their progress that anyone can see at any time. It’s a great way of managing a project and it would be fantastic to see the model adopted more widely.