Innovative collaborative project puts Monmouth on the world map and provides access to almost half a billion people.
Ahead of New York, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Beijing and Berlin, the global digital age reaches a new landmark this week as Monmouth, Wales officially becomes the world’s first Wikipedia town on Saturday 19 May.
This world-first in information sharing will provide instant multilingual access to Wikipedia pages for smartphone users through data collection and recognition tools known as QRpedia codes. Wikimedia UK, the charity body that promotes Wikipedia and other wiki projects in the UK, has been working in partnership over the past six months with the town of Monmouth and local government body Monmouthshire County Council on the project, known as Monmouthpedia.
The Monmouthpedia project creates multilingual versions of Wikipedia pages, about every notable place, person, artifact, flora, fauna in the town of Monmouth and makes them instantly accessible to smartphone users in the town through the installation of QRpedia codes in key locations. The clever part, according to the Monmouthpedia team, is that QRpedia codes display the content in the user’s own language. So, if someone from France whose device is set to work in French scans a code, the Wikipedia content will display in French. The same applies to any language that has related content on Wikipedia.
Roger Bamkin, a Director of Wikimedia UK and co-creator of QRpedia,said: ”We’re delighted that Monmouth is becoming the world’s first Wikipedia town. Both the quality and quantity of the new Monmouth Wikipedia content is outstanding, reflecting the rich cultural, historical and natural heritage of the town. At last foreign visitors cannot only read information in their own language, but they can edit it too.”
The project has galvanised the local community of residents, businesses and volunteers who have teamed up with the Wikipedia community to create hundreds of new articles about Monmouth in 25 different languages, as well as improving hundreds of others and according to Wikimedia UK, helps to make this a truly global project as well as a very local one. With the focus on collaboration, many of those contributors taking part have never been to Monmouth, or even the UK.
John Cummings, the local project lead, said: “Wikipedia is all about working to share the sum of all human knowledge with everyone. Monmouthpedia has shown that whole towns can make a contribution to this effort. Because QRpedia codes can be accessed in different languages they have been used throughout the world. I think that giving free access to information in this way allow us to have a richer experience of the world around us.”
Becoming the world’s first Wikipedia town has attracted numerous benefits for Monmouth, including a boost to both local tourism and business alike. Kellie Beirne, Monmouthshire County Council’s Chief Officer for Regeneration and Culture said: “Monmouth has always been known in the UK as a great place to visit and do business. We very quickly realised that embracing technology and fantastic global community projects like this benefits everyone in Monmouthshire and we are delighted to be involved in something so innovative, creative and forward-looking.”
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has taken a keen interest in the project from its inception and the fact that the world–launch is in Wales has not escaped his attention: “I’m really excited by the Monmouthpedia project. Bringing a whole town to life on Wikipedia is something new and is a testament to the forward thinking people of Monmouth, all of the volunteers and the Wikimedia UK team. I’m looking forward to seeing other towns and cities doing the same thing!”
Since its inception the project has been the subject of intense global interest and has been covered by media from all five continents, partly because of its simplicity. According to Wikimedia’s Roger Bamkin it’s this simplicity that makes the project replicable in every town, city and village around the world, a fact that the team is keen to highlight.
Roger said: “We’ve shown in Monmouth that all it takes is a little creativity, energy and cooperation to put a town on the map and take it to an audience of 480 million people a month. Monmouth may be the first Wikipedia town but we’re hoping for many, many more to follow. Your town could be next, and we hope it is.”
For Wikimedia UK press enquiries please call Stevie Benton, Communications Organiser, on +44 (0) 20 7065 0993 or +44 (0) 7771 778 734. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
For Monmouthshire County Council press enquiries please contact Helen Reynolds at HelenReynolds@monmouthshire.gov.uk or on 01633 644 788.
For the Monmouthpedia project lead please contact John Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07579 965 063.
Notes to editors
1. Wikimedia UK is the Wikimedia chapter for the UK. It works to support, develop and promote Wikimedia Foundation projects, such as Wikipedia. It does this by bringing together the Wikimedia community and by building links with UK-based cultural institutions, universities, charities and other bodies.
2. Wikipedia is the largest reference work ever created. It’s the sixth most visited website in the world, attracting around 480 million unique visitors every month.
3. The Wikimedia Foundation’s projects include Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikibooks, Wikispecies, Wikiversity and Wikimedia Commons.