The push for Arabic content online
Title: The push for Arabic content online
Author Editor: Suzanne Locke
Date (published): 9-15/07/2011
Date (accessed): 15/07/2011
Type of information: article
On-line access: yes (HTML)
"Major web players are looking to boost Arabic-language content online in a bid to meet demand from a rapidly growing Arab audience
The Arab world has been facing a digital conundrum for the past few years – not enough users online creating content in Arabic; not enough content in Arabic to push internet penetration.
Although there are more than 344 million Arabic speakers worldwide and Arabic is the seventh-most popular language on the web, less than one per cent of all online content is in Arabic and there is just a 17.5 per cent internet penetration across the region’s population.
Yet Arabic is the fastest-growing language on the internet, with Arabic-speaking internet users increasing 2,298 per cent from 2000-2009, according to the Internet World Statistics Report.
According to the Arab Knowledge Report, a joint initiative of the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Foundation and the UN Development Programme for Arab States, a lack of content in Arabic has meant users have not felt the need for a high-speed broadband connection in their daily lives. There has been too much emphasis, it says, on hardware and not enough on creativity.
Google has been working on several initiatives to help increase Arabic-language content. It tied up with Wikipedia after observing the Arabic portal of the online encyclopaedia carried 120,000 pages compared with the 2 million pages of its Catalan equivalent. This is despite the disproportionate number of potential Arabic-speaking users, 344 million, compared with 6 million Catalan speakers.
About 10 million words have now been translated into Arabic from English on the site and 6 million from Arabic to English.
The search giant has also been educating small businesses to build their own websites using Google Sites – or to at least put their business directory information on Google Maps. It has built Ejabat, a user-generated question and answer system, which now has 600,000 questions and 2 million answers from 300,000 registered users.
With 20-25 per cent of Mena users in the past year being completely new to the web and a third of them under the age of 18, Google launched educational video site Ahlan to introduce users to the world of online learning. Within three months there were 1.2 million views of the Ahlan training videos.
“There is a regional need for real local content and generally users in the region prefer Arabic today,” Nassef says. “As has happened in the East and Latin America, as the internet goes to the masses, people want it in their native language. If you get beyond the metropoles – Cairo, Casablanca – people want Arabic content.”"