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The foundation is now looking to recruit an army of volunteers to join the movement and become Wikipedia data editors. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Ahead of World Arabic Language Day on December 18, Dubai-based Emirates Literature Foundation, in association with Google, on Tuesday launched a new initiative to boost the visibility of Arab authors online.

Called ‘Kateb Maktub’ (the initiative), the initiative is designed to increase the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia, one of the world’s most visited websites with more than one billion visitors per month. This was announced at a virtual roundtable on Tuesday. Arab authors currently have fewer than 1,500 pages on Wikipedia, lagging far behind author pages in languages such as English, German or French. The initiative aims to increase the number of Arab author pages ten-fold. It is expected that the goal of publishing 15,000 Wikipedia pages dedicated to Arab authors, in English and Arabic, will be reached by December 2022. The initiative has already managed to create 100 Arab author pages “internally” in two months, the virtual roundtable heard.

Seeking volunteers

The foundation is now looking to recruit an army of volunteers to join the movement and become Wikipedia data editors, gathering and sharing content about Arab authors and books so they can be known worldwide. It is working closely with the UAE User Group of Wikipedia to gather information and train volunteers. The foundation will also be reaching out to schools, universities and other establishments to recruit volunteers keen to promote Arab literature and become part of the international community transforming availability of digital information.

Unique ID

The foundation is also joining ‘International Standard Name Identifier’ (ISNI) as a Registration Agency. ISNI is a 16-digit number attributed to each author, and is key in avoiding identity ambiguity online or offline, where names can be spelled differently, including in translation. As part of the Kateb Maktub initiative, the foundation will be attributing ISNI to all authors. Online visibility results directly from the quality of the metadata, the foundation said. It will be publishing biographical information on using ONIX standards. Each author will be attributed a unique URL and each author page will be structured following international best practices, the foundation added. Wikipedia pages.

Current struggles

“We are extremely proud to launch this hugely important initiative for Arab literature,” said Ahlam Bolooki, festival director for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. “The Middle East is the cradle of storytelling, yet today it’s hard to find information about our authors and books online. This project will put Arab authors and literature in the spotlight, positioning them on an equal platform with other major literary powers of the world.”

Backed by Google

Google will work closely with Emirates Literature Foundation to help organise a new information about Arab authors, as well as support authors in taking control of their own presence on Google Search by claiming knowledge panels and uploading videos to Google Cameo, a feature of Google Search which enables public figures to answer questions through videos that appear on the main search results page.

Basel Hijazi, project lead and Google product marketing manager, said: “We’re excited to be working with the Emirates Literature Foundation and the UAE’s Wikipedia User Groups to enrich the web with information about women and men who drive the region’s literary heritage.”

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Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, used daily by more than 290 million people. World Arabic Language Day is being celebrated every year on December 18 since 2012. The date coincides with the day in 1973 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Arabic as the sixth official language of the organisation.