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This article was published on July 22, 2008

Convincing Arabic Wikipedians to Write in Arabic

Convincing Arabic Wikipedians to Write in Arabic
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It turns out that the Arabic language is not really represented Wikipedia, a problem in two ways. Here’s why: First, the people that can’t speak English have access to limited resources, and second: those who actually have Internet are usually the rich, well educated people that have no problem to talk English on the web, which creates a gap between the Arabic and Western countries.

Knowledge is power

The Herald Tribune reports about a group of Egyptians that are a little bit embarrassed about the size of their Arabic Wikipedia base. One of the organizers of an Egyptian Wikipedia conference explains: “The gap between the Arab world and the Western world is not about money or politics. It is about knowledge. There are many examples of Egyptians who travel to Europe or the U.S. and become successful. If people had access to the same knowledge …” As he underlines the importance of knowledge sharing. The Internet can play an important role in bridging this gap.

Not much Arabic content

The Arabic online Wiki content is little, in comparison: the English Wikipedia consists of over 2.5 million articles which is a fair number with over 400 million native speakers. However, the Arabic version consists of only 65.000 articles but counts a whopping 300 million native speakers. At a news conference last week, a reporter asked Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, if there was a sort of Bias against Arabic.

Wikipedia accessible for the poor

Wikipedia, with its open nature and lack of proper sources can be considered unreliable for many, but its often the only source available for the poor. For Egypt and other countries, there is little information available for some of the people. A possible reason for Egypt is that less then 10 percent of 80 million Egyptians are online, and those who have it are well educated and usually express themselves in English.

The Internet opens Egypt open to the world

The visa procedure is very difficult for Egyptians, no matter which country you want to go. Web applications such as Facebook and Wikipedia enables Egyptians to connect abroad. Nahla Ghoneim, a 23-year-old computer engineer at IT Works, said at the conference that young people in Egypt need to get involved in information technology “not just as consumers.”

English is the language on the web

The issue addressed by the Egyptians at the conference probably apply to more countries. In my opinion, the language of the web is English. The fact that everyone speaks the same language makes the Internet as powerful as it is today. However, one can’t expect the poor to talk English overnight. (read more)