April 27, 2009
Googley Moogely Arabic
Okay a stupid title, I should let Hogan do the puns and pun related humour. However, some items on this FT arty
FT.com Google aims for bigger Arab audience
Internet usage has jumped 1,000 per cent over the past seven years in the Middle East, yet it still lags well behind other regions. Overall internet penetration has reached 10 to 12 per cent, although with the region’s large number of shared connections, up to 50 per cent of the population is estimated to have access to the net.
Google, the internet company, hopes to provide the tools that will help users to increase the amount of Arabic content online.
Leaving aside the numbers, which may or may not be dodgey, it is interesting that a heavy weight like google is coming to Arabic.
Some further comments:
The regional engineering team, based in Switzerland, is adapting existing Google products to the Arabic language while also developing new bespoke products, says Ahmad Hamzawi, Google’s engineering manager for the Middle East.
Google News, Blogger and the company’s new browser, Chrome, have Arabic versions. The company’s suite of “cloud applications”, such as Google documents and calendar, has also been changed to include regional features. More innovative is Ta3reeb, which allows users who do not have an Arabic keyboard or cannot write Arabic script to transliterate phonetically into Arabic text through an English keyboard.
“For me the impact of it is very powerful because people can start publishing in a very easy, simple manner, directly in Arabic,” says Gisel Hiscock, the company’s director of new business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Note the location of development. Not Dubai.
More on that below.
Now the annoying thing about their localisation at present is when you are in an Arabic IP area, your searches, etc., default to Arabic.
In any case, things like Ta3rib sound bloody useful, might kill off Arablish / Arabaise chat typing.
While penetration may lag behind, the region is quickly adopting social media trends, such as Facebook, the social networking site, and Twitter, the micro-blogging site.
Google is also looking to expand its presence in mobile technology, says Ms Hiscock. However, while the absence of a free media across the Middle East has helped boost the appeal of blogs and networking sites, internet censorship leaves the company in an uncertain position.
Governments in the region have been keen to tap into the economic benefits of the internet but are also wary of it being used by dissidents and critics. A number of bloggers across the Middle East have been jailed as blogs have developed into an important source of news and comment, given the constraints placed on traditional media.
And, after years without censorship, Dubai Internet City, the free-zone where Google has based its United Arab Emirates’ operations, recently went behind the veil of the UAE’s “proxy”, which blocks access to what the telecommunications regulator deems culturally inappropriate content, from pornography to politically charged material.
“We do believe in democratising information,” says Ms Hiscock.
Bing, bing bing.
Well, let me hazard the opinion that the proxy wall is not entirely divorced from Dubai image, changing fortunes, and the like.
Ultimately, Google’s hope is to facilitate smaller businesses’ migration on to the internet, says Husni Khuffash, country manager for Google in the UAE. “If you give them the right tools, then you can make it financially viable for them,” he says.
Ahmed Nassef, general manager of Arabic web portal Maktoob.com, says cultural tweaking is as important as translation when launching regional products. “Besides just offering up an Arabic interface, companies need to take the time to really understand cultural and social factors – what works in London may not work in Cairo,” he says.
I am not sure cost is the major barrier for small firms as such, at least not tools cost given rampant piracy. Connectivity and lack of interest.
And re Maktoob, I would add, what works in Cairo oft does not work in Algiers or Casa.
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I would have gone with "Google To Ungum Arabic".
Interesting info anyway.
Posted by: matthew hogan at April 28, 2009 02:06 PM
I know it spoils the pun, but that escapes me.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 28, 2009 07:25 PM
"spoils the pun" -- good one!
For mine, gohere.
Posted by: matthew hogan at April 29, 2009 01:48 AM
Hmmm, that's not much of a pun. Actually I would say my title is better (but not good)
Posted by: The Lounsbury at May 1, 2009 07:53 AM