News / Middle East

Palestinian Millionaire to Launch Arabic Online Encyclopedia

Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh with students during a course held at Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Graduate School of Business, Amman, March 19, 2012.
Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh with students during a course held at Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Graduate School of Business, Amman, March 19, 2012.
Reuters
A 75-year-old Palestinian businessman is on a $10 million mission to boost Arabic on the Internet, where it accounts for less than 1 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 Organization (TAG-Org), has his way, the end of this year will see the launch of Tagipedia, a free online Arabic encyclopedia with a million entries.
 
Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Overseas Corporation (TAGOCorp), at his office in Amman, March 19, 2012.Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Overseas Corporation (TAGOCorp), at his office in Amman, March 19, 2012.
x
Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Overseas Corporation (TAGOCorp), at his office in Amman, March 19, 2012.
Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Overseas Corporation (TAGOCorp), at his office in Amman, March 19, 2012.
"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 said.
 
About 350 million people, or 5 percent 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 Koran.
 
Yet only 0.9 percent 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 $10 million 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.
 
One million entries

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," he said.
 
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 percent 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 percent?" he said. "Some don't even have English keyboards."
 
This may have contributed to Arabic speakers' relatively small online presence; in 2011, 29.8 percent of people in Arab states were using the Internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union. This compares with 69 percent in Europe and 53 percent in the Americas.
 
Yet cyberspace, particularly social media, played a big role in nurturing and coordinating 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.
 
No external funding
"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.
 
"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 Arabized 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," he said. "It's not just about having an Arabic website address — we need to create content that people want."

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Negusse Mamo from: Ethiopia
July 10, 2013 11:47 AM
I would like to appriciate Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, for his Great intiatiative to restore an historic Culture and Language of the Arabic World! He is so wise and should be honoured by both the Arab and the rest of the soceity else where. Arabic language so beautiful, historic, spiritual, and one of the oldest languages on Earth which was also origin of many philosophers, sceintists, Religion as a whole. I advise all arabic and non-arabic people like me to be by the side of Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, to enable him success his brillant idea. We have to savegauard and feel responsible not only for great languages like arabic, but also, other languages of the world alike. Courage Doctor! Thank You.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid