The chaos of the Second World War touched all corners of the world—including the Gold Coast (now Ghana). In 1941, a British military officer established No. 37 General Hospital to provide medical care for injured troops in Accra, where the headquarters of Britain’s West Africa Command was located. Today, the 400-bed hospital serves the public and is a teaching hospital for doctors in training.
Felix Nartey was strolling past the 37 Military Hospital in February 2014 when he snapped a photo. He tried to add it to the hospital’s Wikipedia article—only to discover there wasn’t one. So he created a short stub article that night. Just a few weeks later, Nartey noticed two other editors had added more information to the page.
This collaboration and knowledge sharing is exactly why Nartey is so committed to Wikipedia. Together, three editors created an information-rich resource about the hospital that previously hadn’t existed.
“I am focused as a Wikimedian on getting local contents for my country online and to project the heritage and culture of my country through my contributions,” Nartey explains on his user page. “I believe it takes people like me to make that difference.”
Nartey has made a difference—so much so that he was recognized as the 2017 Wikipedian of the Year.
“The only way you can have an impact in this world is to always leave something behind from where you came from and give back to society, whatever that means for you… That is the feeling I get whenever I edit Wikipedia. And I feel like it’s the joy of every Wikipedian to really see your impact.”
Increasing the quality and quantity of articles on African topics
Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. Yet far more Wikipedia articles exist about topics in Europe and North America. Articles about African history, culture, and figures tend to be shorter and less detailed. Nartey tries to figure out why these gaps exist and works to inspire new contributors in his country to share their knowledge.
“Contributors to Wikimedia projects is currently skewed to just a small portion of the technology community in Ghana,” he explains. “I wish to create the awareness and establish sustainable groups with an interest to contribute and help improve Ghanaian-related data on Wikimedia Projects.”
Nartey attributes some of the low participation to Ghana’s growing unemployment; people are less willing to contribute their time for free. Internet can also be unreliable and expensive. “People tend to go without it or place it last on their list of priorities, which, of course, affects contributions to Wikipedia,” he explains.
Inspiring Ghanaians to share their knowledge
Nartey is not discouraged. He’s enthusiastic about-open source tools and technologies and his efforts include helping to expand internet access in Ghana. Nartey leads several initiatives where he promotes the importance of editing Wikipedia. Some examples include GLAM activities, the Wikipedia Education Program, and the Wikipedia Library. Nartey speaks with students, cultural organization officials, and Wikipedians to encourage people from his country to contribute their knowledge.
“Information itself is useless until it’s shared with the whole world,” he explains. “And the only way you can do that is through a medium like Wikipedia. You need to [highlight] that essence in the minds of people and inspire them to contribute to Wikipedia. It’s easy for you to tap in and just tell someone you need to do this because Wikipedia is already creating that impact.”