Arabic is one of the world’s most common tongues by number of native speakers, so it’s little surprise that Google wants to boost the amount of online content available in the language.
The Internet giant is today launching an initiative to build what it calls a “vibrant Arabic Web” - Arabic Web Days (Arabic-only) is a one-month program with initiatives from both global and regional players in the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region, underpinned by the It’s better in Arabic tagline.
The initiative sees Google join forces with Vinelab, Wamda and Taghreedat to help shape the program, but it will also see involvement from Twitter, Wikipedia, TED, Soundcloud, YouTube and other local powerhouses such as TwoFour54 and Qatar Foundation’s Qatari Computing Research Institute (QCRI).
The Arabic disparity
While Arabic may be among the fastest growing languages on the Web, there is still a big gap between the number of Arabic-speaking Web users and the amount of Arabic content online. Indeed, a mere 3% of the total Web content is in Arabic, which when juxtaposed against the number of Arabic-speakers around the world (it’s the seventh most used language online), helps to show the massive disparity.
“The purpose of Arabic Web Days is to inspire the community to increase Arabic content on the internet,” says Google’s Head of Communications in MENA, Maha Abouelenein. “It’s all about the users, she added, we want the Internet to be relevant for Arabic speaking users.”
The month-long series of online and offline events will invite users to join the movement, and accelerate digital Arabic content creation across MENA. These will include:
- Google+ Hangouts: Sharing tips and tricks for anything they want to do on the Web in Arabic, such as learning how to use the Google translator toolkit to turn English content into Arabic, and join the Wikipedia Editors Program for its second cycle. ICANN will also be hosting a Hangout around the issue of Arabic domain names.
- Egyptian Minister of Education, Dr. Ibrahim Ghoneim, is backing an initiative to “enrich” Arabic content on the Internet by preparing several educational channels on YouTube and releasing online education portals which include all the different curriculums from first grade through to 12th grade.
- Al Arabiya, one of the Arab World’s top news channels, will be doing various programs and initiatives during the AWD month through TV, online and more.
- Hosting a YouTube Tweet Up in Doha, Qatar on December 15, to share insights on how to create viral Arabic videos and make money through YouTube.
Interestingly, there will also be the region’s first Arabic infographics competition, in partnership with Tajseed, as well as a number of other key events.
To mark this month-long programme, Google has also declared that 12/12/12 will be National Arabic Internet Day, which will see further announcements made in the build up to this date.
“‘Arabic Web Days’ is just the beginning – we hope to keep the momentum beyond just this month – the talent in MENA is strong and we have yet to realize the economic potential that the web can create,” added Vinelab’s Managing Director, Abed Agha, who’s also Arabic Web Days co-creator.
Back in July, Google marked Ramadan with a series of live YouTube streams from Mecca, Google+ Hangouts and more, much of which was in Arabic.
And earlier this month we reported that Twitter was looking to ramp up its Promoted Products in the Middle East, while we’ve previously noted that Arabic is the fastest growing language on the microblogging network, a trend that extends to other online services, including Wikipedia.