Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer, Wikimedia Foundation and Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director of QCRI
Qatar Computing Research Institute, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, today began a partnership with Wikimedia Foundation to reinvigorate the Arabic content on Wikipedia, the world’s largest free encyclopedia, increasing the quantity and quality of contributions.
This collaboration follows the first ever Arabic Wikipedia Conference, a two-day event organized by Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) which brought together Arabic language Wikipedians (editors and contributors), computing experts from QCRI, Qatar-based universities and businesses, as well as dozens of leading Arabic language experts from around the Middle East to discuss and identify ways to stimulate the growth of Arabic content on Wikipedia.
Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director of QCRI, opened the press conference announcing the landmark partnership and details behind the collaboration with Wikimedia Foundation.
“We are proud to be behind the renaissance of Arabic-language on the ubiquitous internet,” said Dr. Elmagarmid.
“There is broad agreement in many circles within the Arabic speaking world that the quantity and quality of Arabic content available on the internet is not meeting the needs of the close to 350 million Arabic speakers worldwide,” he said. “We have taken note of this gap, notably in Wikipedia, and with the support of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser (Chairperson of Qatar Foundation) have committed resources to addressing the issue and working on solutions.”
Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia referenced and used by everyone – from school children to businessmen. “We need to make it easier for Arab contributors to contribute to Arabic Wikipedia, and improve the experience for users of the content. We see an opportunity to be a leader in Arabic language technologies, not only in researching technologies and developing computing solutions, but making what we do relevant to the average person,” said Dr. Elmagarmid.
Based on the partnership, Qatar Foundation and Wikimedia have identified four promising initiatives for accelerating the growth and improving the quality of Arabic Wikipedia content.
These include the development of incentives and authoring tools for Arabic Wikipedia editors, incorporating Wikipedia article editing into the classroom curriculum, creation of article translation tools developed by QCRI, and general public communications and outreach to recruit content contributors and editors, and to help them learn how to edit effectively. QCRI will facilitate and support collaboration opportunities between Wikimedia and institutions through the Arabic-speaking world by creating a joint team of consultants and academic advisors based in the Middle East and North Africa region.
As of July 2011, the Arabic Wikipedia comprised 150,000 articles, created and managed by 552 active editors. By comparison, Portuguese, a language spoken by 290 million, has 693,000 articles and 1,694 active editors. In year one of the collaboration, the goal is to add 50,000 articles to Arabic Wikipedia – comprised of both translation of existing contributions and original articles, and 1000 editors. By year three, the goal is to grow Arabic Wikipedia to 500,000 articles.
Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer, Wikimedia Foundation said: “During the Wikimedia strategic planning process in 2010, Arabic Wikipedia was identified as a priority for special efforts to help catalyze the growth of the project.
“Qatar Foundation's Computing Research Institute is an enthusiastic and incredibly capable partner for us in the region. We're looking forward to the future possibilities for new programs and initiatives to support the Arabic Wikimedia community” said Newstead.
During the two-day conference leading up to the announcement of the partnership, top Arabic language Wikipedia editors from the region and computing experts from Qatar discussed the growth of Arabic content on the internet. Sessions included an overview of the history of Arabic Wikipedia, goals for the Arabic initiative and major programmatic initiatives including expanding the editorial pool to include university students, leveraging machine translation and engaging in public outreach to build interest in contributing to Arabic Wikipedia.