In September we announced Health Speaks, an initiative to make more quality health information available in local languages on the Internet. We began by launching three pilots for which people crowd-sourced translation of English Wikipedia health articles into Arabic, Hindi and Swahili.
After an inspiring 3.5 months, these pilots have come to a close. Health Speaks communities translated, reviewed and published 266 new health articles (177 in Arabic, 79 in Hindi and 10 in Swahili). My colleague, Dr. Joanne Stevens, and I met hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers, and heard powerful stories about the importance of local language health information. We’ve also learned invaluable lessons about providing tools that allow for community coordination and easy and accurate translation.
Our first Health Speaks pilots pledged a donation of 3 US cents per English word translated to three non-profit organizations working in health. As an extra thank you to the volunteers who were so generous with their time as we tested our approach for the first time, we are adding an additional $10,000 donation to each NGO. Their contribution has resulted in donations of $26,611, $16,815 and $10,580 to the Children's Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357 (Arabic), the Public Health Foundation of India (Hindi) and the African Medical and Research Foundation (Swahili) respectively.
While we iterate on our future approach for crowd-sourcing the translation of health content, there are still many ways to contribute to the goals of Health Speaks. We encourage anyone who is passionate about local language health information to consider one or more of the following:
- Authoring a health article on Wikipedia or another platform
- Creating a health information-based blog
- Translating Wikipedia or other health articles into another language
- Bringing offline local language health information online, through digitization programs such as Google Books
We’re already seeing evidence of the impact of our volunteers’ hard work. For example, three reproductive health-related articles in Arabic have been viewed over 20,000 times. Articles from the Health Speaks pilots (including the professionally translated articles commissioned by Google.org) have been viewed over 145,000 times. We think it’s a great first step towards making important health information accessible online in all languages.
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