CAIRO: When in need of quick and brief information on a topic, many of us tend to say “I’ll just look it up on Wikipedia. A few strokes on your keyboard and you’ll find information on pretty much any and every topic from the giant online editable encyclopedia.
However, while Wikipedia supposedly features more than two million articles in English, there are only around 100,000 articles in Arabic available to Arab Wikipedia users.
Ayman Hadhoud, one of the founders of the student group Arab Wikipedia Initiative, finds that fact worrisome.
Following a recent conference at the American University in Cairo on Arab youth development, Hadhoud along with a couple of friends decided to start a group devoted to creating awareness of Arab Wikipedia in an effort to spur “intellectual accomplishment among Arab youth.
“Arab youth lacks the knowledge to find information on the internet. There is no justification for that. We have computers. What we lack is awareness, Hadhoud told Daily News Egypt.
The main goal of the group, according to Hadhoud, is to spread awareness of Arab Wikipedia as well as turning usage of it “into a culture.
“We want the Arab youth to become as accustomed to using Arab Wikipedia as English- speaking Wikipedia users, Hadhoud added.
While Hadhoud emphasizes the importance of the growth in Arab Wikipedia articles, he maintains that it is not a pressing goal of the group to increase Arab Wikipedia entries.
“Our main interest is to raise awareness of Arab Wikipedia. That will hopefully lead people to contribute more in terms of Arab Wiki entries, Hadhoud said. Furthermore, Arab Wiki enthusiasts hope that the holding the Wikipedia Foundation’s annual conference, “Wikimania, at Bibliotheca Alexandrina in summer 2008 will help draw more attention to Arab Wikimedia in the region.
“Arab Wikimedia is growing in importance. I think the fact that the Wikimania conference is being held here in Egypt next year will draw people’s attention and get them interested, Mohamed El-Sebayed, a volunteer with the upcoming Wikimania conference told Daily News Egypt.
According to Moushira El-Amrawy at Bibliotheca Alexandrina, around 500 participants are expected to attend next year’s Wikimania conference.
“There is so much knowledge among Arab non-English speakers. Now, we just need people to contribute that knowledge to the rest of the world. That’s where Wikipedia comes in, El-Sebayed added.