ESCWA Participates in a Workshop on Digital Arabic Content in Jordan
ESCWA participated in a workshop entitled "Digital Arabic Content (DAC): Challenges and Opportunities", which was held in Amman under the patronage Her Highness Princess Sumaya Bint El Hassan of Jordan. The workshop was organized by Princess Sumaya University for Technology, Jordan Computer Society, the Jordanian Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, and Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Knowledge Society (TAG-Knowledge).
Saed Habash of ESCWA Technology Centre in Jordan gave a presentation on "The Status of Digital Arabic Content: ESCWA's initiative to strengthen its industry", saying that this industry stems from the increasing need to use the Internet in our daily lives, and the expansion of DAC software market and its applications, which is generating new job opportunities. "ESCWA is interested in this area because of its importance at the regional level especially since the Arabic language is a common denominator in the region," he stated. It is thus imperative to identify a common DAC development strategy, market its products and build capacities to use it. ESCWA's representative highlighted the findings of an ESCWA survey on "Digital Arabic Content: Software, Applications and Needsí assessment", which was based on the assessment of more than 200 Arabic websites and portals. "There is a lack of a comprehensive vision of Arabic websites that identifies their development principles and ensures their sustainability. This resulted in a weak design and the absence of interactive tools linking the website with its users," he said.
Habash pointed out that foreign-produced software is the most adopted for developing DAC, though its tools and applications do not meet the specific needs of the Arabic language, such as search and automatic language translation. Thus, blogs and social networking tools have expanded. As for the e-government content, he said that most of related websites provide citizens with information lacking transparency and rarely availing interactive tools. In the e-business sector, the English language is the most commonly used; however information about agriculture and industry sectors and business activities are still missing. The e-learning sector constitutes one of the most important areas to develop DAC in order to bridge the digital divide in spite of the absence of Arab regional integration initiative or cooperation, in addition to the inadequate training of teachers on how to integrate ICTs in education. However, the Arabic language was ranked among the top ten world languages used on the Internet at seventh place, registering the highest growth rate among other languages during the period 2000-2011.
ESCWA's representative outlined the activities in this area which began in 2003 with the launch of the DAC Initiative, and the preparation of a study on strengthening and improving this content in digital networks. In 2005, a study was published on the "Digital Arabic Content: Opportunities, Priorities and Strategies", and in 2007, ESCWA launched a project to promote DAC industry through incubators. The same year, other studies were published to serve as a guide for both entrepreneurs and incubators. An expert group meeting was also organized to promote DAC industry in the ESCWA region. In 2008, a letter of agreement was signed with the incubators participating in the above-mentioned project, awareness campaigns were implemented in some ESCWA member countries, and a DAC competition was organized in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen, after which all of the selected projects were implemented through incubation in these five countries.