Arabic online encyclopaedia to launch

2013-07-09 18:31
Tagipedia

Tagipedia

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Dubai - A 75-year-old Palestinian businessman is on a $10m mission to boost Arabic on the internet, where it accounts for less than one percent of websites despite being spoken by one in 20 people worldwide.

If Talal Abu Ghazaleh, owner of the education and professional services firm Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organisation (TAG-Org), has his way, the end of this year will see the launch of Tagipedia, a free online Arabic encyclopaedia with a million entries.

"I see it as a means of building an Arab knowledge society, which is my mission in life ... to contribute to the economic and social development of the Arab world," he told Reuters.

About 350 million people, or 5% of the world's population, consider Arabic their first language, while hundreds of millions more are familiar with it through Islam's holy book, the Qur'an.

Yet only 0.9% of websites use Arabic, placing it 13th overall behind the likes of Polish and Dutch, according to the analysts W3techs.

"For a language with a great heritage and culture, that is very modest," said the effervescent Ghazaleh, who says his company has spent more than $10m developing Tagipedia over the past five years, and will fund its running costs, keeping it free of advertising.

TAG-Org, which has its headquarters in Jordan and 80 offices around the world, began as an accounting firm and has diversified into other sectors including education, information technology, intellectual property and legal services.

Ghazaleh describes the website as an act of philanthropy.

Unlike Wikipedia, whose content is created by users, Tagipedia will have a more traditional form, with all entries vetted for accuracy and relevance before publication.

Latin alphabet

Ghazaleh expects it to have 1 million entries by launch, compared to Wikipedia's 235,000 or so articles in Arabic:

"Wikipedia is a great innovation and it helped collect, store and disseminate knowledge, but there has always been a call for enhancing the Arabic content on the internet."

University students have been researching the entries, which are then vetted by academics and Tagipedia's in-house experts.

The United States led the internet's growth, which remains skewed towards languages with Latin alphabets, and English in particular.

Only 10% of internet users in the Arab world can interact with English websites, according to Fadi Chehade, chief executive of Icann, a group that manages some of the internet's key infrastructure.

"What about the other 90%" he said. "Some don't even have English keyboards."

This may have contributed to Arabic speakers' relatively small online presence; in 2011, 29.8% of people in Arab states were using the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union. This compares with 69% in Europe and 53% in the Americas.

Yet cyberspace, particularly social media, played a big role in nurturing and co-ordinating the Arab Spring uprisings that ultimately led to the exit of long-standing rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Aware that other countries including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have tried to nip such trends in the bud by controlling internet use, sometimes prosecuting bloggers, Ghazaleh is keen that Tagipedia should avoid political or religious controversy.

"Tagipedia is a library, no one has the right to post any information without verification. The content is vetted for data to be correct, useful and non-offensive to any person, authority, religion, culture or community," he said.

Arabised internet

"We have always refused donations or funding because we want to keep our independence."

From late 2013, Icann will start to release about 1 500 new generic top level domain names (gTLDs) - existing examples include .com and .net - and the roughly 120 non-Latin script names will be given priority, including include some in Arabic.

Although a welcome development, these will not necessarily lead to a sudden increase in Arabic language websites. Some countries including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates already have Arabic country domain names that are little used.

"What we're missing in the Middle East is not so much the domain names as the industry that enables these names to actually flourish," said Icann's Chehade.

Britain has thousands of internet domain name resellers, he said, while the Arab world has about five. For a truly Arabised internet, domain names must also read from right to left, not left to right, which only some search engines allow.

But above all, there is a need for Arabic content.

"The problem is that beyond newspaper websites we don't have many other sites focusing on the Arabic language," said Hamza Aboulfeth, the head of Genious, a Moroccan internet domain registrar that hosts about 20 top Arabic language websites.

"We don't see new Arabic applications, we don't see new start-ups dedicated to the language. It's not just about having an Arabic website address - we need to create content that people want."

Read more on:    icann  |  uae  |  internet
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

DA wants to empower fishing communities - Zille

DA leader Helen Zille says the party has a plan for harbours and small-scale fishing communities.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB

GALAXY Note combines the market's largest HD Super AMOLED display,...

From R3899.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.