Emirates Internet launches portal for Arab Internet users

While in 1995, 95% of Arab Internet users were fluent in
English, in 2000, only 50% of Arab net surfers used English. Al Bahhar, a multi-lingual portal is the UAE's attempt to address that issue.

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By  Vijaya George Published  September 25, 2001

Emirates Internet and Multimedia (EIM) today announced the launch of a new bi-lingual portal (www.albahhar.com) as part of its ongoing initiative to enhance the surfing experience of its customers and Internet users across the region.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Ashraf Gameel, development manager, network services and portals, EIM, mentioned, that as opposed to 1995 statistics where 95% of the Arab users were fluent in English, in the year 2000, only 50% of the Arab Internet users were fluent in English. "EIM is fully committed to making the Internet more accessible to the Arab world, while preserving the Arabic language, culture and heritage on the Internet,” he added.

Al Bahhar portal is the UAE’s way of fulfilling that commitment. “Our aim is to provide Arab users with a one-stop-shop for virtually all their information needs,” said Mr. Abdulla Hashim, senior manager, business development and sales, EIM. The portal lists 13 vertical channels including news, sports, business and technology. It gives detailed information on 21 Arab countries including links to web sites that offer related information. Users can also subscribe to a free personalised e-mail newsletter service, which allows them the flexibility of choosing both the content as well as the periodical news updates. Mr. Hashim declined from commenting on the capital invested in the project.

EIM has tied up with international newswire Agence France-Presse (AFP) and local organisations such as Cosmos software, the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Dar Alkhebra and ,Arabiainform to provide content for the portal. While AFP will provide English content the rest will provide Arabic content. Mr. Gameel mentioned that over 2000 new stories go up on the site everyday.

Asked if the portal would be competing with MSN Arabia, an impending Microsoft initiative, Mr.Gameel said that EIM would be holding talks with the software giant on a possible tie-up.

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