Jamal Bin Huwaireb (right) and Khalid Abdul Shafi announce the details of Knowledge Summit 2016 in Dubai on Monday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: A new Arab Reading Index will reveal reading habits in Arab countries through the “biggest and most scientific” survey of its kind, officials said on Monday.

The announcement came during a press conference about the upcoming Knowledge Summit in Dubai, scheduled for December 5 to 7 at Dubai’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The index will be launched at the summit by Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Its online version will collect feedback on reading habits in all Arab countries, including those facing instability, while its field survey will be held in four or five Arab countries, most likely in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and “probably” Egypt.

Officials from the two establishments said reading habits are speculated to be poor in the Arab World.

“Arabs are not giving their justified right in international surveys. According to the last one by Unesco, Arab citizens are reading only half a page per year, which is saddening,” MBRF managing director Jamal Bin Huwaireb told the press conference.

He added that the new index would provide accurate data on the status of reading in the region, which will be accessible to policy makers as well as the public.

Bin Huwaireb said the index “embodies MBRF’s belief in the unequivocal role that reading plays in acquiring knowledge” and comes in line with initiatives of the UAE’s leadership, such as the Year of Reading 2016 and National Strategy for Reading.

Khalid Abdul Shafi, manager of the UNDP regional hub in Amman, said: “The index will be based on scientific standards. Previously it has been only been speculated that Arab citizens don’t read enough. The index will provide a clear picture… and serve as a tool for governments and researchers to develop strategies to address the issues.”

The survey’s online version, which will follow the same format as the field survey, will aim to reach at least 20,000 people, said Hany Torky, chief technical adviser, UNDP. He added that the field survey would target a total of around 5,000 respondents in participating countries.

The project’s debut edition will take around a month’s time, with the data and analysis presented during the summit, Torky said.

Questions will include how much people read, what and when they read, and what are their motivations and obstacles to reading, among others, he added.

The annual summit, an initiative of MBRF that is now in its third edition, will be held under the theme of ‘Knowledge – Present and Future’. The three-day event will see experts explore the challenges, opportunities and trends in knowledge creation and dissemination in the Arab region.

As routine, the summit will feature the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award, which honours individuals and establishments that have made notable contributions to spreading knowledge globally. There will also be a university fair and workshops.