The Arabic speaking population today is only 5 percent of the world’s total, but it is the fastest growing language on the Web with an astonishing growth rate of over 2,500 percent over the last decade. In comparison, English has grown at only about 300 percent, Spanish at 800, although Russian is trailing right behind the Arabic at 1,800 percent. By the end of 2015, Arabic is expected to be the fourth largest language group online from the current position of seven, with over 150 million users. And yet, even with all this growth, less than 1 percent of relevant Internet content is produced in Arabic. We are far from being ready for this colossal growth.
This lack of Arabic content is disappointing. To fully participate in the transformative nature of the Internet, Arabic speakers should have access to the wealth of content in the sciences, arts, literature, and media – in their own language. Like any national resource, the collective cultural heritage is something that advances us all, individually and collectively. One of the ways how to help the Arabic digital content grow is to facilitate the global dialogue, and there is plentiful evidence that it is already happening. Just have a look at what our five staffers, residents of Doha, have to say.
The main driver of creating a common information ecosystem is the merger of globalization and technology, including accessible Internet. It took off and reached a tipping point in the beginning of the 21st century that has resulted in leveling the field for individuals and companies that now have equal access to the same information and open source technology that had previously been available for only the select few. In contrast, for most of the 20th century, cultural heritage content came in a single format, one that wasn’t easy to copy and share. I still remember the times when photo copiers were not available and we used carbon paper to make copies. Remember that? I hope not, because these days have passed and we now have a plethora of digital technologies that make sharing, collaboration and adaptations easy and fun.
Sharing, mixing, translating and reusing makes growing digital Arabic content a much faster and richer process as well. Imagine being able to connect and collaborate globally with creative talents different from your own. The growth and investment in the e-content space is part of a new wave of entrepreneurship, and there are plentiful and encouraging examples of this right here in Qatar. ictQATAR supports entrepreneurs from multiple companies including fahrasqatar, an online yellow pages portal and BYLENS, the first Qatar based stock photo library. A major success has been Tagreedat, a non-profit Arabic e-content community founded by Qatar based Mina Takla and Sami Al-Mubarak. With over a 100 members in 10 Arab countries, Taghreedat is a host to the whole community that digitally grows Arabic cultural heritage.
The rise of digital collaboration will support the increasing need to connect across different fields to create something we all will benefit from – a wealth of Arabic information.
What do you think? What needs to happen in order for the Arabic digital content to grow?