Mission Dar Es Salaam

From the speakers overhead the air hostess broadcasts that we are now beginning our descent to Dar Es Salaam and I have not even finished munching my beef burger. I force it hurriedly down my throat so that I do not miss any bit of the landing meme that goes with the aircrafts. After 15 minutes the runway was in view and now the remaining part was the landing. We landed safely at around 0630pm. After being cleared by the immigration and the yellow fever inspectors I went ahead to collect my other luggage, the Wikipedia banner that was waiting for me up front. Next the cabs. The drivers are only waiting for you to find them at their designated desks and they had no rush like their NBO counterparts who barely wait for you to get out of the luggage bay.

I boarded a cab and headed to Akubu Hotel that is located at Kariakor area. There was an immediate change of plans due to some short on my budget courtesy of the ever fluctuating exchange rate of our Kshs against the dollar.  But scratch that, it is not much of a problem for now. As we drove to my hotel the driver told me “sijui kama tutapata foleni kule mbele”—Foleni?? Ooh you mean a traffic jam. Surely Swahili is such a technical language. I got to my hotel at around 900pm tired and worn out and the next thing was sleep.

At the reception at the hotel where I was staying

Reception at my hotel

I woke up on the following 30th November and did my finals on what my mission entailed.

Downloaded some new PowerPoint themes and tried them out on my slide to make them look nice and from abroad 😉 I rushed to the venue of the meeting using a cab some minutes before it started and took my seat. Guys were wondering who this Steve is. Then to their surprise it was me a young man of 22! I took to the podium after an introduction by Pamela Marinda, PHD..BTW, she was not the MC but an organizer.I set up my slides and the Wikipedia show went live. There were wow moments all through my presentation and what wowed the crowd the most is to learn there exist a Swahili Wikipedia!!

Giving the talk at the workshop

Then the real editing started where the users had to create Wikipedia user accounts.

Offering assistance to the attendees

  Wait, we had a holdup while creating these user accounts as the Mediawiki platform detected this as an attempt to hit the servers with so many requests to crash it. The effect, we could only create 6 accounts per IP. After checking with Oscar who is a Wikipedian and had faced the same problem while doing an outreach in Botswana, he recommended me to try opening accounts in the numerous languages – it by some means worked for some of the usersI pinged guys at the WMF about this and it was sorted in 10 minutes. During this time I had some time for a glass of water. After the guys opened the accounts, I had the chance to show them some editing stuff in the sandbox. Many guys had this great feeling of increasing African presence online and one way of doing this is through Wikipedia. To be specific one librarian told me that even professors in African universities only have their works documented offline and thus the need of programs like the Wikipedia Education program to have this work published online. In a nutshell I told them

“Wikipedia is not an arbiter or the repository of all human knowledge; it is a good point to start in the journey of knowledge.”  I also touched on the truth in numbers philosophy in relation to Wikipedia and its projects.

A key thing that I insisted on is the articles on Wikipedia should not and never be original content; such information does not belong to Wikipedia. As I winded up the talk, I gave the attendees some swags that included T-Shirt, Badges, lanyards and some laptop stick


After this very long day I was invited for dinner by the organizers at the high-status Peacock hotel after which I had my fair share of Dar Es Salaam at night 😉

The other facilitators of the Workshop. From Left Dr. Chisenga, Mrs. Gracian and the Husband (Host), Pamela Marinda PHD and Stephen Wanjau

The report card is next on my next post…..


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