Film-maker and activist Bishakha Dutta from Mumbai is  the first Indian on the WikiMedia Foundation Board of Trustees . She interacts with Wikipedians at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), in Bangalore on April 11.

Here she said that  she is “terribly excited.” She listens intently as wiki volunteers make presentations on the technical aspects of editing and various other outreach activities. When something strikes her as important, she scribbles furiously in her notepad.

The appointment precedes another major announcement, one that has been on the cards for a few months now: the formation of a formal Indian Wikipedia chapter. Even as the nitty-gritty of the chapter formation is being worked out, Ms. Dutta is already in the thick of wiki activity.

The virtual close-knit community of Wikipedians in India was bemused last week when the Wikimedia Foundation appointed its first ever Indian board member. The predominantly male community was further astounded that the appointee was a woman, an “outsider” at that, with no background or involvement in wiki editing.

In India, she points out that Wikipedia has been able to drive the growth of regional language content on the internet.

In an informal study released in 2008, the Wikimedia Foundation reported that only 13 per cent of contributors to this online encyclopaedia are women. These numbers are even more skewed in India. Even at the Bangalore Wikipedia meet, Ms. Dutta is conspicuous, being the only woman.

She emphasises that getting more women on board is her top priority. “This is reflective of the fact that women do not think of themselves as creators of content. This needs to be changed by conducting activities that will help drive this change. Women need to realise they can put up pages that are important to them — and this could include anything from women’s activism to women-centric hobbies,” she says.

Ms. Dutta points out that despite growing content on India, there is not a single wiki entry on the iconic woman Bhanwari Devi, who was gang-raped in Rajasthan, or the Bilkis Bano case.

There is immense interest in India on the Wiki board. In late 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation will begin implementing its new five-year plan, which will include its first-ever on-the-ground activities designed for growing readers and editors within specific geographies, including India.

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