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Arabic Wikipedia gets a boost

Qatar Computing Research Institute partners with Wikimedia Foundation to improve Arabic content

Arabic Wikipedia gets a boost
Dr Ahmed Elmagarmid, executive director of QCRI and Barry Newstead, chief global development officer, Wikimedia Foundation have signed a partnership agreement designed to improve and expand Arabic content on Wikipedia.

The Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) has partnered with Wikimedia Foundation to further develop Arabic content on Wikipedia and improve the quantity and quality of contributions.

The collaboration follows the two-day Arabic Wikipedia Conference, organised by Qatar Computing Research Institute, 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.

"We are proud to be behind the renaissance of Arabic-language on the ubiquitous internet. 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," said Dr Ahmed Elmagarmid, executive director of QCRI.   "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."

The 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. ‘

"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.

The QCRI will help to facilitate and support collaboration opportunities between Wikimedia and institutions through the Arabic-speaking world by creating a team of consultants and academic advisors based in the MENA region.

Arabic Wikipedia, as of July 2011, was made up of 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.  

The QCRI and Wikimedia Foundation hope to add 50,000 articles to the Arabic Wikipedia through the translation of existing contributions as well as the addition of original articles, and 1000 editors.   By year three, the goal is to grow Arabic Wikipedia to 500,000 articles.

"During the Wikimedia strategic planning process in 2010, Arabic Wikipedia was identified as a priority for special efforts to help catalyse 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 Barry Newstead, chief global development officer, Wikimedia Foundation. 

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