INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM 2010
15 SEPTEMBER 2010
OPEN FORUM 9
ARAB ICT ORGANISATION:
DEVELOPMENT OF ARABIC CONTENT
FACING THE FUTURE INTERNET
Note: The following is the output of the real-time captioning taken during Fifth Meeting of the IGF, in Vilnius. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> The topic of this is the development of the Arab content facing the future. The main objective of this Open Forum is to study the development of Arabic content and what extent it is adopted to the future Internet.
In spite of the strong political results and the efforts of the Arab community, which is full of highly qualified experts, the Arab content online is still weak. In comparison to the Arab population, which counts about 358 million people, the Arab world considers ICT access and the presence of the Internet as a development.
The Arab general strategy of the information society until 2010: We have focused on the development of the industry and services of the digital Arabic content.
Dear colleagues, today there is an urgent need for the prediction of original access and for the Arabic content for both the local and international markets. Promotion of R&D and development of skills for the development of local and great mobile application, cost, usability, innovation on the level of application, namely value added services, providing wireless based Internet solutions.
The Internet is evolving towards the future Internet and the Arabic content should grow with the same developments.
We are giving the floor to my friend, the head of the KTR of the United Commission for CSTD. I'd like to inform you of the outcome of the WSIS in Geneva and Tunis. (Off microphone.)
Thank you all for your presence, Mongi, the floor is yours..
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you for this introduction.
It's my great pleasure to moderate this panel on the development of Arabic content on the Internet organised by the Arab ICT organisation. Let me first give you an idea about the panel. The objective is to present the extent of the Arab content on the Internet and discuss its status. We will try to highlight some of the obstacles and the challenges that the creation of Arabic content faces today.
We will conclude by highlighting what can be done at the original and national level to stimulate and improve the Arabic content for the people.
I want to put into perspective the Arab content or lack of it. There are 75 million Internet users in the Arab countries, representing 20 percent of the total Arab population of about 350 million. However, only 1 percent of the total content online is in Arabic.
To make this into perspective more, I would like to cite a depressing example that I got from Wikipedia. Today, there are about 120,000 Articles in Arabic, Arabic language, for a population of about 350 million. Compare this to over 300,000 Articles in the Swedish language for the Swedish population of no more than 9 million. This example speaks volumes about the lack of Arab content on the Internet.
It is against this background ICT is organising this panel to address some of the key questions, and it is summarized into four questions. First, how developed is the Arabic content on the Internet and what needs to be done to make Arabic content more accessible and affordable for the Arab population.
What needs to be done at the national and regional level to make the Arabic content well structured, accessible and affordable for the local and the international markets?
And, third, what are the bodies and the challenges that the creation for Arabic content faces today?
And fourth, what are the incentives that can be made to stimulate the creation of Arabic content on the Internet?
These are all important issues that most of the Arab countries face today. I hope that this panel will shed some light on to these issues and help to raise the awareness.
I'll not take up more time. We have a number of distinguished ICT leaders and experts to help with us these issues.
We are very fortunate to have Dr. Robert Kahn, who doesn't need any introduction. You know he was one of the -- considered one of the fathers of the Internet. He along with Vint Serf created the Internet Protocol and the transmission control protocol. They are two fundamentals on behalf of the Internet today.
We have with us Mr. Howaida Amin Nadim.
We have with us Shadi Abou-Zahra, Web accessibility specialist at the World Wide Web Consortium.
We have Dr. Slim Saidi, director Arthur D little based in Dubai.
We have with us Khaled Fattal. And we have others with us.
>> ROBERT KAHN: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be here with this group and to share some of my views. I'm not an expert in Arabic, as you may have gathered, but I have some very serious thoughts about how you might grab this field for yourself and help to move it forward, and not necessarily just depend on others to do it for you.
Part of the issue of developing Arabic content is going to lie in issues of economic incentives. And if the incentives don't exist for others to do it, the only strategy that will work and one that is now viable is to understand how you can take control of this whole field yourself and help to develop the capabilities that you need.
So I'd like to give you some background on how the Internet has been evolving over the years, to give you a sense that change really is possible. Some of it is more difficult than others. But some of it is going to happen inevitably and some of it you're going to have to do yourself.
So when we started in the world of the Internet, I'm going to focus on a -- one particular piece of it just to give you a flavor of how things are changing, and that is the notion of addressing. You hear a lot of discussion here at this IGF about IP addresses and DNS and the like. When we started, the first network was ARPANET. I was a chief designer of that. It was developed in the late '60s, early '70s. One of my colleagues Luiz, I see in the audience, at the time that we were doing our work, we were addressing computers by essentially which wire they were connected to.
When we got into the multinetwork world, then the answer was a wire would needs a lead to another network and so you needed to be more specific about the computer. So we introduce the notion of IP addresses to designate the computer among all the computers in the network environment that you might want to talk to.
DNS was added to simplify the notion of remembering IP addresses. It's not an integral part of the Internet. This is not well understood by most people, because so many of the applications have built them in. So if you use an e-mail system, probably it's going to ask for a DNS specification typically. But you could put in an IP address if you happen to remember it. So it was an application that made it simple.
When the worldwide Web came along, they adopted all these old paradigms. Basically, the way you address things in the www was by saying here is the domain name of a machine and here is the name of a file that is on that machine.
Well, if you think about the needs of almost everyone in the world for managing information, they want to create information and for some manage it over very long-time frames. We dealt with the publishers who produce scientific material and medical information and the like, and they would like to produce documents in electronic form, digital form in particular, and have the references at the back of their journals be clickable and accessible well into the future. And the last thing you want to ask 100 years from now is what was the file name when this document was created 100 years before or a thousand years before?
Much of the government information fits into this category. You know, a lot of the educational materials will fit into this category, corporate and business information could fit into it. Medical records might fit into it, financial information and so forth. So there is a need to manage information over very long periods of time. And we came up with an idea for how to do that a number of years ago, which was literally to identify the data structure itself. So if we stored information in the net in the form of its native data structure, then the identifiers will work over the long haul.
Now, this is an idea that at first blush doesn't seem powerful. But it's a very powerful notion, especially if the digital objects that these identifiers relate to basically are structured in a form that can be manifest over the long haul.
This is an area that I know some of the major companies are looking at. There is no economic incentive for them to deal with it right now, because a lot of this technology is too new. But sooner or later, I think it's going to be the most important thing by far for us to have to deal with. People are coming up with open standards. That is a major step forward. You can get most of the major software products on the market today, at least from the major manufacturers, are at least making their information available in open standards.
But the problem with those is not that that is not a good step. It's a great step and it's an important interim step. But now we will have to manage the standards, because you need the interpreters to take those open standards and so manifest them well into the future.
Within the context of the Arabic language content, there are very few ways you can use the current Internet to navigate through that material. So I want to mention a couple of things that we have developed that I think you'll find very interesting. One is we have been very interested in the multilingual aspects of the Internet, along with security and open architecture. And the importance of open architecture is that if you've got the right structure for managing information, which is what we have been working on, an open architecture will allow you to manage the evolution of that over very long time frames, as opposed to managing the technology itself. Because you end up managing the interfaces and the protocols and objects that move. That's why the Internet has been so successful over the 40 years since we started it.
We're not managing the individual network, the computers, we're not managing any of the pieces, we are managing the open architecture nature of it so the pieces work together.
I want to bring to your attention the digital object registry. You can find that on the net. It's DOregistry.org. And this is a means of allowing organisations to take information that they have, define we call them the metadata scheme, mark the ways of describing the object so they can tell us how they want to describe it, and you can then search these registries based on the schema that you've come up with for describing it. So if you describe it in Arabic terms, you can search for it in Arabic terms. If you describe it in multiple languages or terms that can be interpreted in multiple languages, you can search for it in multiple ways.
I would certainly hope that some of the software providers would create the ability to generate documents in Arabic. I know that making new works available, you need a community to do that. But you have to capture the information and preserve it and make it available.
If you don't go down that path or you can't get access to that technology or there is no economic incentive for industry to really do that, then it seems to me you have no choice but to try and do it yourself. And I think that's a more difficult task, but it's not one that is outside of your grasp, because the basic structural elements to allow you to do that are now available. There is technology that you can pull off the net to manage digital objects. You can use existing storage systems to do that. You can build collections across different repositories through the use of repositories. You can do that in a public or private way. You can manage the objects short-term or you can manage them over a long-term timeframe depending on what it is. I think the thing that will make that transition into that mode really valuable is if you can find a collection of content that is going to be interesting to a much larger community than just the parties that created it. Because that is what will create a viral environment in which people will want to interact with you.
These repositories are all interactive with each other.
And so anybody who joins this will now be part of the community that automatically self forms. Just like you join the Internet, you're part of the community that is the Internet. So I think that is a really valuable opportunity to have and I would encourage you to think seriously about not only trying to make use of the technology, but to think about projects that could be collaborative with other people where they would really be interested in accessing the material that you create.
And if you do that, and it's part of this global system, I think there is a really good chance that we will end up with a helpful hand from the ITU in trying to deal with some of the parts of the world that might be otherwise more difficult for some of the standard bodies to deal with directly.
So, I'd like to leave my remarks with that and turn the floor back to you, Mongi.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you for this very enlightening presentation. I'd like to give the floor to Mr. Nasser Kettani to talk about the opportunities that Microsoft is considering for -- and I apologize for forgetting to introduce him at the beginning of the session. You have the floor.
>> NASSER KETTANI: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. It's an honour to be here. Thank you for the opportunity and congratulations for taking the lead on debating such important topics.
I'm not going back to what the Internet and ICTs have enabled during the last 20 to 30 years in terms of new jobs creation and new opportunities, et cetera.
The reason we're here is to talk about the future and how to do more. Despite all the changes and the innovations that you have seen in, you know, and the major advances that we have seen on the Internet and ICTs. We all believe that we are in the beginning of still a big, big transformation of society, which will be enabled by the Internet. And we all know that Internets would play a leading role on important societal issues, be it education, healthcare, poverty, democracy, and all those important things, you know, the environment, et cetera.
Without the Internet, we can't cope with the global issues. So when it gets to content, as I listened to the Chairman earlier, he said we have only 1 percent of the content in Arabic. There is another way to look into it, you can say this is an opportunity, this is good news because the opportunity is here to do more and to accelerate that.
But for that to happen, you have to understand why we only have 1 percent today. There is a problem and we have to understand what that problem is.
We need to also begin to make the changes to address the problem. And we also need, and I think that is the most important thing, we need to make the -- to understand what has changed in, you know, in the way people are using the Internet.
And you know when we say 1 percent, I'm sure that we talk about the number of pages that are out there. But if you think about the way people are using the Internet today, we moved from a desktop to a mobile, TV, game devices, et cetera. So the way we access the Internet has changed in the interfaces that we use. We moved from browsing to using applications to access the Internet and we moved from just visiting to social networking, et cetera, et cetera. So the scenarios and the use case of using the Internet have changed dramatically.
And I think we will see more of those changes especially as we are -- see two things happening on the Internet. One is about how people are connecting their business lives and their personal lives. That is one.
And the other big thing is as we look at what we call the Internet of things, when we are going to connect billions and tens of billions of devices all together to the Internet, that will create a huge opportunity for creating more applications, more innovations and more content. As we have, you know, billions of devices all connected together.
So getting more Arabic content on the Internet means that people are really incented to do so. If I am a content provider, I want to make sure that I have, you know, customers that are willing to visit, to buy, to access that content. So far as a community, not only as a company, but to address that we have to do certain things and I'd like to share some ideas about, you know, to put them on the table. First, we have to address the access first.
We need to make it easy, cost effective, open, more accessible to people with all sorts of disabilities. So that is the first thing that we have to make sure that we're addressing.
We need to lead by example. When I look into governments around the world, they need to provide, you know, content in the form of applications, et cetera. And please, the government should not start with, you know, tax payment, because this is how they start, because that is not a real great idea about how they can address people on the Internet. In the country where I live, last week I asked for a new passport and I was happy to see that I could go to the Internet and fill out a form to get the, you know, to get a request for the passport. But the bad news was that it was in French, not Arabic, and there was no alternative for others to use that same form in Arabic. And I think that is not what I call leading by example. So we have opportunities for, in our governments, in our countries, to really lead by example by looking into how they can put education and healthcare and all sorts of services to citizens and to businesses in Arabic.
We need to, in our country, we need to adhere to certain fundamental principles of the Internet, which are openness, freedom of action, avoid over regulation, so that people can have free access to the content and get, you know, and get that content at their finger tips.
We need to incent innovators, those that will be developing new applications and new innovations, and there are a lot of ways of doing that, you know, as we go.
And lastly, but not least, and we will also need to have -- to make sure that we respect, that we have the right tools to respect each other's IP as we go to the Internet content.
And we consider Arabic as a first language when we deliver our products, our Web sites, technology, they come up in Arabic so we enable others to build content and applications which support Arabic content. We work with ISVs and we have Research Centres focusing on Arabic specifics, things like, you know, voice and search and user experience, digitization, translation, accessibility, and so forth. So we do that as a company, as an -- we see that as a company, as an opportunity for public/private partnership. This is an opportunity for us to sit with NGOs, governments, innovators to, you know, to develop the opportunity.
So thank you very much.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Now I get the floor to Foda to talk about the Arab content from the Arab league perspective. You have the floor.
>> FODA: Thank you for the preparation of such an important session. We have been actually hitting a lot of eTerms lately, like e-mail, eMedia, eGovernment, eLearning, eEntertainment and einclusion. There are masses of information available on the Internet for everybody to browse and Web browsers made to make it easy to reach information about nuclear reaction or as easy as a simple food recipe over the Internet. We have many social sites, like Facebook or others, where you can meet and make new friends and maybe friends that you lost years ago. And there is no way that you could have found them back. There are entertainment sites, dating sites where you can meet new people and maybe matchmaking people for marriage or for love. EBay allows business throughout the whole world. You can sell anything you have in a global market, and you can look for what you're looking for all over the world.
So I'd say actually that nowadays, the Internet carries maybe an element of knowledge. It carries an element of friendship. It carries an element of business. It carries an element of love. It carries an element of entertainment. And if we are pushing towards eLearning or eHealth or eGovernment or eCulture, then I think we should all support the UN in its pushing towards making the Internet a basic human right. Everybody should have the right to use the Internet, not just to use the Internet, not just to access information over the Internet, but maybe to use it -- to consume over the Internet, to share over the Internet and to contribute to the Internet.
Statistics actually are not that well for the Arab business, for Arab speaking people about 5 percent of the whole world population, out of which 20 percent have access to the Internet. But still the Arab content is I think way less than 1 percent. Statistics vary from 0.3 or 4 percent to 1 percent. Which makes, if the Internet was fairly distributed, then we have the potential of multiplying the content at least by 10 times. And I'd say with civilization, with the ancient civilization, with the countries that we have within the Arab region, it should not only reflect the 5 percent that we share of the world population, but maybe much more than our share should be there on the Internet. So we have a potential to multiply the content dramatically during the coming period.
Many reasons were actually behind this may be low accessibility. Maybe the lack of content. The urban gap within many of our Arab states. The lack of success stories within many states. The high access costs. The filtering that maybe governments put over the Internet.
And one of the very important reasons, also, is the domain names. While, yes, there are Arabic content over the Internet, there are Arabic pages over the Internet, but nobody could access the Internet unless he had the basic knowledge about Latin characters. He had to write still www.Google.Com to be able to reach the Arabic content.
So I think that Internationalized Domain Names that ICANN has recently announced is a new revolution towards Internet usage. Maybe it's a revolution that we didn't recognize or we didn't feel that much, because we are English speaking or we have at least the basic knowledge of English characters. But maybe the internationalized domain names would open up the Internet for many new users from all over the world. Maybe billions of users who have not been exposed to that technology that we are considering now a basic human right because they didn't have that basic knowledge of the English language or Latin characters.
So, internationalized domain names is a new evolution. It will contribute a lot to the digital divide, but not on its own. The internationalized domain names will not contribute on its own. There are other factors that we have to consider, infrastructure, security, innovation, contribution, and above all I'd say the content. If there is not enough content in the Arabic language, people who only speak Arabic will still not be interested to access the Internet. If there are not enough people accessing the Internet only in the Arabic language, then maybe content providers will not be interested in putting up Arabic content over the Internet. So it's a two-way process. We should push towards Arabic content over the Internet while also push towards internationalized domain names and an industry of domain names in the Arabic language to be able to field that new evolution that is coming.
The Arab Telecommunication Information Council was among the first to realise the need for an ICT strategy on the regional level. They adopted the first ICT strategy during the Arab summit in Amman, which was in 2001, close to ten years ago. And with the recent progress in ICT and with what the WSIS has given to the importance of ICT in sustainable development, there was a need to come up with a new strategy. And another strategy was adopted during the year of 2007, which was the strategy for information and communication technology.
This strategy was aimed at enabling Arab action at national and regional levels to enhance the use of ICTs for sustainable development through the interaction of all relevant parties.
It had three basic -- three strategic objectives. The first strategic objective actually, which was creating a competitive Arab information society, discussed the development of the industry and services of the digital Arabic content.
Other action lines, like ICT infrastructure, like ICT based services, like building confidence in and security of ICT use would complement the development of the services for the digital Arabic content. And this is one major strategic objective out of the three strategies. This is one of the action lines that are focused within the Arab telecommunications council. We have 29 projects now adopted by the Council of Ministers, and many of them address Arabic content, like regional incubators, like memory of the Arab world, Arabic script and domain names, Arab domains, search engines in Arabic language, portals for learning, health, business, many projects of the 29 address -- either directly addresses the content or other issues that are very much related to the content.
The body responsible for that within the structure of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers is domain names and Internet issues. This is the group that was represented by different government -- relevant government employees, and also it participates with the ITU, the esquire and the (Off microphone.)
But we find the need to go beyond that. We find the need for ICT to go beyond the government structure, maybe address all stakeholders through the Arab dialog on the international governance that is an issue. We are speaking subconsultancy. We are seeking the private sector to participate in that.
I thank you for setting such an important session. Thank you for listening to the session. Thank you very much.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you. Now I give it to Howaida Amin Nadim to talk about the ICT Qatar and what the initiatives are that they have taken to improve the Arabic content.
>> HOWAIDA AMIN NADIM: Thank you. I represent ICT Qatar. I'm here, stepping in for Dr. Hassan Jabin. She apologizes for not being here.
The Arabic content is an industry. If you look at the Arabic digital content, you have to look at the region. Qatar being a small country with a total population of 1.6 or 1.8, depending on the transit labour we have, we understand that we cannot create an industry in that region out of looking at it from the pan Arab or the Gulf region. And we know that there is a lot of initiative in that region, in particular. Saudi, UAE, they are all looking at Arabic digital content as a market to be done.
What happened in Qatar is not unique probably to the other countries in the region. The mobile penetration is over 120 percent. We have household Internet penetration is also above 40 percent. And at the same time -- I was asked to speak a bit slower. I'll try to moderate that.
Sure. Yes. Definitely.
We understand that for any digital content industry or market, there are certain characteristics that have to be involved. One is that we need to have the right policies in place. We need to have the right microeconomics. And in our region we have the right demographics. Having also the capacity and the access and the use for the infrastructure is in place. We have the right broadband. We're trying to increase our broadband capacity for fiber to the homes across the country. We are looking even into satellite in Internet and we are also looking for ensuring that the Internet becomes a birthright or a principle right for all of the citizens of Qatar.
But at the same time, we understand that any digital content, that if you're thinking about it, it has to be local. And you have to have a local content, you have to understand the ecosystem of that country. So we know that there are a lot of challenges that have to be looked into to provide a viable Internet digital Arabic content. When we look regionally, for a small country like Qatar, we have to look at what our neighbors are doing and realise that there is a lot of changes or a shift in the consumer behaviors. If it's the young population, definitely they were preferring the use of mobile Internet. They probably are heavy users of the mobile system, the IPTV, and so we felt like there was a real change in the consumer behavior when it comes to the use of content.
And when we looked into our strategy on how to develop this industry, we found also that we have to look into the segmentation of that market. And the segmentation of the market realized to us that you have to look into the four groups. Youth, almost 34 percent of the population. If you think in a country like Qatar, over 50 percent of the population is under the age of 24.
And then we look into the professionals, the females, which is a powerful group, and also the male groups. And we find that from these groups, we find that the youths are interested in gaming, blogging, chatting. The professional preference is in information, work, communication and knowledge.
The female, we find that health is another area where digital content is very important for them, amusement, lifestyle, fashion and general communication. The male group we find is still it's new, sports, it's information, entertainment.
And then we find that also the international players being Google, Facebook, being Yahoo, whoever, they are also interested in the region. But the question was do we have the right Internet connectivity, speed, bandwidth, available in place to attract them to the countries?
What are the challenges we find? We find that there are a lot of challenges. One of them is the human capacity, skills, talent. Do we have the right pool of talents in place? Qatar is unique in the sense that we have probably heard of the education city, where we attract a number of international universities to the country. Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, Texas A and M and so forth. So we have the right landscape when it comes to higher education. But do we have enough pool of talents to be there to really help in creating that digital industry?
The other thing is we find adequate funding. Of course, Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But where is the wealth going? More going to real estate rather than actually -- it's going into content or media development. Another thing we find is the legal framework, the regulatory framework. Do we have the right laws in place? That was a major issue. And being in government, we know that laws are regulatory and so forth. To be put in place it takes a lot of time. So it will not go in line or in parallel with the development that we are trying to target.
Recently, we have issues with the eCommerce law. It took 2 or 3 years to get that law in. But we need to think about it in terms of intellectual property rights. If you bring in the big players, do we have the right laws in place? Do we have the right policies for the eCommerce laws? Do we have the spam laws? What about censorship. We don't have censorship in Qatar but at the end of the day there are local sensitivities, there are critical sensitivities, there are a lot of things that need to be taken into place.
And to create that industry, you have to think about the digital access and the use. We have to think about the incentive models, what kind of funding will we do? How will we develop this human capital? And if you put in the policies and regulations, how will we do that and in what frame and what model? We have to ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place in terms of high usage, high capacity broadband access.
As I said, we are probably in a unique position because we have an organisation called ICT Qatar and this happened to be the regulatory body and at the same time the policymaker, the planner and developer of the ICT sector. So that helps us to put all of these policies and regulations in place.
And just recently we developed our next five year ICT strategy until 2015. And in that strategy, our focus is going to be mainly on market development, and digital content is a key part or imperative of that strategy.
We felt like in Qatar we are in a unique position. We have all of the networks and all of the information that we can actually put online. We are trying as much as possible to utilize the higher education landscape that we have in place and probably have the right post graduate programmes in place so that we can attract content providers like Googles, Yahoo and Facebook and so forth to be in place. By increasing the interconnectivity or international connectivity through the satellite or fiber, that also gives us an advantage or a competitive edge when it comes to Internet connectivity.
Then, we find that in our strategy, the best way to do or to help the digital content industry is mainly by incubation. So our target in the 2015 is to have -- to encourage entrepreneurs or young Qatarists to start startup companies as a focus for digital companies. We aim to have like 30 companies owned by Qatarists, the main focus of that is digital content.
Also, we are having a national digitization plan. IE, we're trying to work with all of the government agencies in Qatar to digitize all our official documents, our laws, decrees, everything has to be digitized and to be put into a national depository. When it comes to access and youths, we are adopting the flow of accessibility for all. We established recently a Centre for Assistive Technology dedicated to providing information for People with Disabilities. That centre is also going to work on R&D and provide the right content for the People with Disabilities. And hopefully we will take that also regionally.
When it comes to incentives from models, we are trying to establish the content funding mechanism and providing grants and government subsidies to have the right funds. And also, we are trying to have a new business model like digitize on demand and having the right laws in place.
When it comes to the human capital, because of the small size of the country and the few numbers of the people that we can have, we're working with the universities also like for example Northwestern, they have a journalism programme in that school. And we are trying to teach the students detailed content and to really focus on multimedia and content development and so forth. So it's not only a journalism school.
And when it comes to the policies and the regulation, it's not only that you want to put laws on IPR and eCommerce and so forth. What we need to do is also encourage open participation. So we're working with creative people who are working closely with Al Jazeera that we will put it free on the Internet and use the open comment principles. Infrastructure, we are for ensuring an open affordable intersection to all digital content and we are trying to support the development of standards for digitization. We are using a lot of forums and increasing our awareness for the people to be using that through the government agencies and for the private sector.
So in conclusion, we believe that our ICT 2015 strategy will help us to put the rights to be ahead and be in the right path for creating a digital content industry in the region.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you for this elaborate intervention.
And now I give the floor to Mr. Yousef Nusseir.
>> YOUSEF NUSSEIR: Thank you. May I start by thanking you for inviting us to this important panel, which is also a priority at esquire, as I will emphasize in the next few minutes.
Digital content in general is big business. It helps create is opportunities for investments. It helps create job opportunities. And it will support the establishment of small and medium sized industries in any region.
And in the Arab region, starting from WSIS, this was a major conclusion that digital Arabic content is important to be part within the socioeconomic development of the region. We established the regional plan of action in 2004-5 in preparation for WSIS, and one of the main components was digital Arabic content. And as my colleague, Dr. Foda said, the Arab ICT strategy emphasizes the need to develop digital Arabic content industry in the region.
Of course, there are many initiatives in the region; starting from initiatives as projects, like the memory of the Arab world, supported by the League of Arab States, and there are different and several initiatives that help promote the establishment of Arabic content, like the Bahrair and Arabic eContent award and the city and Hindi award and so on and so forth.
And if we look at statistics, some of the Arab countries increase their content on the net by 1 thousand times. As a matter of fact, the City was increasing its content on the net in the last three years. However, if you consider that the content was very little, by multiplying it doesn't make a lot of content on the net. As you heard from our colleagues, the content, Arabic content, on the net is much less than 1 percent, although we constitute 5 percent of the world population.
Okay. What is Esqua doing? Well, we started looking at the Arabic content since 2003. We started with various studies looking at the scene, what is available, in terms of digital Arabic content, and what can be done. And we have done several studies in 2003, 2005, and 2007. And in 2007, our studies were geared towards promoting the digital Arabic content industry, and I'm really glad to hear that Qatar is also putting into plan the digital Arabic content industry.
And in 2007, we initiated a project called the promotion of digital Arabic content industry through incubation. Now what we have done in that project, which is a really important milestone as far as we are concerned in this area, we directed the project towards youth, entrepreneurs, and small and medium sized industries. We directed it towards science and technology incubators. So we tried to marry the entrepreneurship spirit of our youth with the incubation facilities that are available in the region in some countries.
And we started in five countries, namely Jordan, City of Palestine, Yemen, and the third -- which one was that? Egypt. Five countries. And what we have done is we started with the competition, trying to find which is the best ideas to start up a small project or an initiative in this area. And around 60 presented projects, the national committees in the five countries selected nine. And the price was to incubate them in science and technology incubators for a year. This was the price. And through that year, develop the skill of the entrepreneurs, develop the ideas well so that you come up with a potential small company that will help enhance the industry, the content industry.
And I think it was quite a successful endeavor. We have done some evaluation on the output, and it is very encouraging. We need to replicate that and sort of expand it.
Now, at the same time, one should look at the development of content, digital Arabic content and other content, that it is a cooperative operation. You have to cooperate, you have to really coordinate activities within society to be able to do that. It is not a government initiative. It's not only a private sector initiative or civil society. It should be a cooperation among the various players within society to be able to deliver a good content that is usable by the various players. In that sense you find that terminology is important. There was a project adopted by the League of Arab States and was funded by ITU and Syria to develop common baseline terminology in ICT.
And as my friend from the Arab League mentioned, we're trying to also support the Arabic task force in the League of Arab States in developing an Arabic Domain Name System and also to move into the internationalized domain and names, .Arab and .Arabic.
But I emphasize the cooperation aspect. The Arab region is quite a large region. There are 350 million, as we have today. But the cooperation is very minimal. And we are not producing content as much as we should. So we should cooperate. And in one of our workshops, the recommendation was to establish an Arab training centre to develop the skills of our youth so they can develop software and content in various sectors to increase the content of the Arabic on the net, using whatever tools are available, Internet tools.
So, the message is we need to cooperate together to be able to develop an industry through incubation and through other means to increase the content of Arabic on the Internet.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you, Mr. Nusseir. And now I give the floor to Mr. Shadi Abou-Zahra, Web accessibilitys specialist on the World Wide Web Consortium to talk about the accessibility and to the Arab eContent. Thank you. You have the floor.
>> SHADI ABOU-ZAHRA: Thank you. Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be on the panel. Thank you for this invitation.
I have a couple of slides. I'm not sure how to operate them. Is there -- okay. Thank you.
So I'll be talking about the slightly focused aspect of Arabic content on the Web, and specifically about accessible Arabic content, making it accessible for People with Disabilities.
Next slide, please.
So just to make sure we understand what we're talking about, making Web content accessible to People with Disabilities means that people can perceive the information and user interface in different ways. For instance, if you can't see the content, you can hear it or feel it on a Braille display or some other form. So there are different ways in which you can perceive the information. The content is operable in different ways. For instance, if you can't use a mouse, but for whatever reason you can use a keyboard or a touch screen or another input mechanism, the content and the information is understandable. For instance, for people with low literacy or cognitive disabilities, or many other aspects that influence the understandability.
And finally, that the content is robust and reliable to interpret.
Because some people with disabilities use software or assistive technology that prepares the content. So it needs to be accessed not only by humans and different types of technologies, but also by different types of software.
One point that is important is the benefits of accessibility for everyone, for people with or without disabilities. So, for instance, as we all grow older, we very often develop aging related impairments. But also, many people have low literacy or low computer skills and accessibility, also known as easy to use. It helps people learn the products, use the content, and makes it available to everyone. It's also more available to people using mobile devices, IPTV or all the new technologies that are emerging, ubiquitous technologies. And people on limited bandwidth or older computers with limited processing speed, or people in many other situations or circumstances -- you're in a loud environment and you cannot hear what is being said -- but if you had captioning, like we have in this room, for instance, you'd be able to understand the content even though you cannot hear it.
Several times in this panel already, it was mentioned the incentives, the economic incentives or the cost effectiveness or the imperatives and so on, opportunities for investment. Those were all quotes from previous speakers, about getting content on the Web and out there. One thing to understand is that accessibility has a return on investment. It is a business incentive to make the content accessible. It improves, for instance, search engine optimization, or it reduces maintenance costs in the long run. So that is one thing that people don't often understand is the business incentives of accessibility for everyone.
There are Web accessibility standards, that's what the W3C develops, the World Wide Web Consortium develops core standards. But we also develop accessibility standards to make sure that Web sites and Web tools are accessible. Most known is the Web content accessibility guidelines which defines what accessible content is. We have guidelines for the users, which is browsers, and this needs to be accessible, or the authors tools used to produce content or create it. So that includes even wikis and social media platforms that are used to generate new content.
And then obviously also some more technical specifications such as the accessible rich Internet application, which deals with making new so-called Web 2.0 applications accessible to people with a variety of disabilities.
I'm glad to announce that there is an authorized Arabic translation of the Web content accessibility guidelines that were just mentioned in progress right now. It's being carried out by the University of Tunisia. The professor is in the room. So this translation is happening. It's being carried out through an open and community review process. It's a step. It's a small step to get the Arabic content out there. It's a small step but it's important. And I invite everyone in the room here or in the panel to become involved in this process. Please contact the professor or myself. We would really love to have you involved in this process in order to get this set of standards out for use, as one of the collaborative steps that was also highlighted.
One thing to note is that accessibility is not an option. It's a human right. The UN Convention recognizes access to information including Web content as a human right. And I believe most Arabic countries have not only signed, but I think several have also ratified this Convention. And the Question is, really, well, it's good that they ratified it, but what about the implementation? How much accessible content is out there on the Web, not only content.
Tomorrow there will be a survey presented, carried out by the G3ict, the global alliance and ICT, in a session called "From Athens to Vilnius, beyond the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities." It's tomorrow from 9 to 11 AM, in room 4, if you're interested to learn how Arabic countries are actually performing on getting this UN Convention implemented.
I don't know the exact results and I don't know how accessible. But, unfortunately, so far what I know is that the implementation is far from what may be the policies that are in place or the promises of the governments are. So there is a big gap to cover and to get content not only out, but to get content accessible.
Next slide, please.
So what are the steps to moving forward to actually getting content out, making an incentive by making it accessible, making it usable by more people, and making it -- and ensuring that it's accessible?
I think the first step, the most basic step in moving forward from this space is awareness raising for all stakeholders. So this includes policymakers and the developers, the editors, and also the users themselves. This is something that totally from my personal experience as an Arabic person is something that is still very needy in the Arab world. The views towards People with Disabilities and the accessibility needs is seen more as a -- an additional effort or seen more as expenses, rather than seen as an innovation and a return on investment to get people more integrated into society.
The next step needed is training and education and capacity building. Even when we passed the stage of not know what accessible content is or accessibility, we get to the stage of not knowing how to implement it or how to get it done. And this is a stage in many areas, both again the developers, the policymakers, the project managers, and so on.
There is a lot of need for tools that produce accessible Web content in Arabic. This includes authoring and evaluation tools. It's difficult right now if you create, for instance, a Web site and you assume that it's accessible, to actually try to check how accessible it is in Arabic. There are little tools that fully support the generation of Arabic content. There are some open source initiatives and translations of some of the existing content management systems, but really, full support of Arabic is sometimes very needy.
And finally, affordable assistive technologies in Arabic. So to have real Arabic assistive technology, for instance, screen readers. I just recently read a study about the quality of screen readers in Arabic and the results are not very good. Very often the text to speech, the Arabic module is added on and it's not as strong as it needs to be.
And what is needed more is the development of educational resources and training. This could also be done in an open source format, or open sourcey format.
Tools and assistive technologies and so on, that is a way of reducing the cost and increasing the incentives of creating not only content in Arabic but accessible content. Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you, Mr. Abou-Zahar. Now I give the floor to Mr. Slim Saidi from Arthur D. Little. You have the floor.
>> SLIM SAIDI: We started the panel by talking about paradigms, so I'll keep on the paradigm shift actually that is happening now.
And I'll try to avoid as many acronyms as possible that consultants are used to presenting. I'll try to squeeze into five minutes.
First I want to talk about convergence. And the message that we're saying here, convergence is here, it's here to stay. And it's here to actually change and revolutionize the way we do business, and the way we actually handle Internet and the way we handle -- we put the means towards accessibility. But not only for the disabled. I would say for everybody. And we will see that the accessibility is not -- is not to be taken for granted.
I would talk about the Arab world, but it extends beyond the Arab world. I'll talk beyond content. I'll talk about beyond the language itself, the Arabic language. It's about relevance as well. And as I was saying, access is key.
The third one, the market transformation that we're seeing partly because of the paradigm we were talking about is trending our current capabilities. And I'll talk about the vicious circle that is actually increasing the digital gap that is preventing us, the fact that we -- the economic sense of creating local content or localized content would actually help bridge the digital content. Not doing it on the other side will actually only increase it.
Finally, what are some of the key success factors that could help us with that? Now, it's easy to talk about the challenges. I don't want to be doomy in my speech. Some others have done it. And we will talk about some experiences and how actually it should start.
The first one in terms of the impact, I will mix a little bit Internet -- allow me to mix Internet and broadband, because the correlation is almost similar. Now, 10 percent point increase in broadband penetration has been shown to raise the annual per capita growth by .5 to 1.5 percent.
So, this is a number worth pursuing.
The second impact, it's estimated that every percentage point increase in broadband penetration and even more so in Internet penetration, employment would increase in that area where you have that penetration increasing, by .2 to .3 percent. Now, .2 to .3 percent per year, because you're embedding it into the culture and the habits of the people. So this is .2 to .3 percent.
The US had statistics on that, 10 megabytes for example, minimum speeds available in an overall region had saved the United States, for example, $500 million in terms of cost. So there is a definite advantage and business case at least at the government level, at the country level, to address those accessibilities and those items.
Now, this is where I'll talk about the paradigm. And the last time I used Web 2.0, my 13 year old boy told me: Dad you're late. Now we're talking about the Web 3.0 and he was talking beyond that. I'll avoid the acronym, to simplify them in a couple of things, what is called the TV 3.0.
Just to give you an idea, the largest live concert that ever happened in the world didn't happen live. It happened on YouTube.
10 million people attended the YouTube concert that was last October, I think, one year ago. 1.5 million people went and revisited that concert in the coming -- in the subsequent weeks.
So this is the dynamics that we're talking about. So we're talking now of one of the largest producers of TV, of content, of video, not anymore being BBC as we know it, or the traditional companies or TV companies or media producers, we're talking YouTube. Now, the problem, it's not even YouTube. It's my kid, your kid, it's ourselves. All of us. Probably our kids are much better than us in producing the content.
This is -- by the way, technology is allowing that, so it's no longer him or her. We used to say that technology wouldn't allow it when we talked about convergence, and this is allowing it. This is creating a paradigm shift in the whole -- convergence is no longer about IT merging with, well, computer world merging with TV. Or IT would merge with, I don't know, telecom.
There are three areas at that conversion. The industries themselves are converging. So Google coming into the android handset business. They are coming into the industry of the handset business.
The second thing, there is a convergence of players. So you can't say that this is a pure -- well, Microsoft is known as well to have -- to be a very active player at least of the systems that are supporting the handsets, et cetera. Et cetera.
The third thing -- the third area of convergence, which is confusing the industry and I will say that it's confusing even more the regulators, I would say, is the convergence of the products and services. It's very difficult now to stop or to control as much as we used to do it, for example, content, to go on the Internet or to be read by people.
So the convergence is there. It's a trend. It's blurring the whole idea of the way we create, manage, distribute, the way we transact online. Now, all those used to give power to some silos I would say. So the traditional model of the power of aggregation of information or the power of distribution of information, or if I controlled the channels of information it's now moving from the traditional areas to actually, let's use a simplification, to our kids.
And unless regulation would follow and governments and I would say governance of the future, this is how I would call it, would follow, then you won't be able to allow it. You won't be able to enable it. Sorry.
Now, one of the issues that we have, and I'll stop with the statistics here, so I'll give you other statistics which is very interesting. In Japan, 90 percent of Internet traffic generated by Japan is consumed in Japan. So they go and browse local content. 5 percent is peer-to-peer. And another 5 percent is into international content. We go to Europe, 50 percent local content. 20 percent peer-to-peer. 30 percent international -- international content.
Guess what? For the GCC countries, for a sample of them, not all of the countries, 5 percent of the content is local, consumed local. 5 percent is peer-to-peer. 90 percent is going international. 90 percent is going international among which 57 percent is going to the states.
Now, this brings me back, actually, to Ms. Houaida. How could you connect that with your international activity? So this is why I said it's beyond content or language. It's about connectivity. And every country in the GCC, but beyond it, we have been working with all kinds of regulators, operators, et cetera, about those things. All of them have the biggest issue of how do I provide access? How do I go over that hurdle and get the people on the Internet highway? And if the Internet highway always takes you to New York, well, tough luck. You need to have the connectivity all the way there.
Now, after that, another problem which is called latency, and latency is a technological I would say term in general. But we use it beyond technological and you'll understand what I mean with latency. Latency could be the delay that you have in the network, which is actually dramatic in the case of some of our countries. We have statistics around that. It's around 150 milliseconds across the GCC going to the states and Europe, compared to what is acceptable, which is 2 to 3 milliseconds.
So, if we -- if we take that latency, which is technological, and add to it some other nontechnological latency, basically, slow down of traffic, control of traffic, et cetera, then the actual throughput that could be provided to a citizen in the GCC cannot exceed 10 megabytes. So we're blocking our population through all kinds of reasons, because they are always trafficking to the states because as well we're imposing some latency to almost 10 megabytes.
Now, let me rapidly wrap it into -- the question is very simple. It's about demand and supply. On the demand side, you have what would generate demand would be device penetration. So handsets. We talked about ubiquity earlier. Handsets, terminal, laptop, I pads, you name it. The second one is users needs. So it's good to provide me with the access to the content. But it needs to be relevant to myself.
The third one, which is the most difficult actually in our world is what we call the ICT literacy, or the Internet literacy or the digital literacy, which which is not yet embedded in our culture. I would conclude with one thing. The right to access of the Internet is declared. And most of the countries in the Arab world, the GCC indicated that as a right that is being promoted.
Some hurdles exist, international connectivity. Unless we reduce external browsing share, what we call the external browsing share, which is people going outside of our borders to browse; reduce latency both technical and nontechnical; embedding the literacy in our policy, strategies, priorities -- but as well practices, in our practices, it's not only about filling a form, it's about living it, then the progress cannot be achieved. And this is the essence of the discussion that we're having today.
>> mongi hamdi: Thank you for your comments.
Next is Khaled Fattal, Chairman and CEO of the international group in London. You have the floor.
>> KHALED FATTAL: How many in the audience are Arabic speakers? Please raise your hand.
(Showing of hands)
Okay. How many -- keep your hands up. How many of you have children that use mobile phones?
(Showing of hands)
How many of you taught your children how to SMS or use the mobile phone to access the Internet and communicate with their friends? Raise your friends.
(Showing of hands)
Okay. I don't believe you. Anyway, there is a point I'm trying to make from this. We're trying to address eCommerce here. Let me use this metaphor. If I wasn't feeling well, and I asked myself well, why am I not feeling well? What are the symptoms? So I go to see my doctor. ECcommerce is an ailment. It's an illness that we all recognize that is a condition of the Arabic Internet, and we all wish it to be a lot better than this. We go to the doctor and say I'm not feeling well, I feel cold. Let's say it's with the eContent. But the doctor tells us, but your cold is not because you really have a virus, you've got other problems. And your problems are -- and he starts giving me the list of what my issues are, what my ailments are.
So let's cut to the chase, to be specific on what is it that we need to remedy to actually empower this eContent in Arabic so that it can really rise to the level that we believe would be acceptable for our culture? And there are challenges.
One, many of the speakers addressed it accurately. They talked about the ability to navigate or access the Internet in the native language. Absolutely fundamental. Yes, we have content in Arabic today on the Internet. But most of it it currently exists under English U RLs. Now, does that mean that we are empowering -- and I use that key word, empowering -- society as a whole to come in and take part and we end up with what I call the good, the bad and the ugly content? This is how society actually transpires. Look at English Internet, nobody needed to teach people how to do this. On many of my trips to the Far East, I asked my host to take me to visit the schools. I wanted to see what they do with the children at level of ICT learning. And I was amazed. I saw children who were 7 years old, exactly as the previous speaker mentioned, they were doing research based on the instruction of the teacher, sitting in front of their computers, and they are retrieving content in Korean from Web sites in Korean and everything was in Korean.
Now, once you empower, you can see the results. And we go back to the original Question that I raised from everybody here is did we all have to teach the children how to use the mobile and communicate with their friends blah, blah, blah blah? Guess what, they teach us how to use this of
So while I recognize that there are a lot of wonderful benefits from what different processes and different establishments and businesses are doing, but in themselves they identified where we have not succeeded yet in ten years of initiatives of improving the quality of Arabic eContent.
So let me just address one of the points that I think is very valuable. We have not been addressing very well.
Going back to the navigation in the local language, today, the ICANN process of creating new TLDs, and one of the concepts is dot Arab and there will be more. Are we only addressing eContent or are we looking at how to preserve the Arabic language? As we all know, today with children, they are using Arabish, for lack of a better term. Mix of Arabic with English because that is what is at their disposal. If we don't address these issues in a practical way that empowers the local citizen and giving him all the tools, in ten years' time we may discover that the Arabic language has been impacted not just the local content itself.
So going back, there are many initiatives at the national level, at the pan Arab levels, but I think we need to stress the fundamentals. The fundamentals are that we need to have an Arabic DNS that allows for Arabic content in a way that permits the Arabs to have a say of how it gets developed. That's one. That's my opinion.
Secondly, there are lots of products and services that can come in from Apps, from minimizing barriers to entry, empowering the local citizen. Education. But bottom line, the simplest picture I can draw to you, anything that empowers the local citizen to step up and create, we need to give them this. Because this is really empowering and creating the ability for the eContent to develop to be at a level that we would like to see.
Short of that, previous initiatives to accelerate this eContent have not met with the successes that we would like to see, and we would like to see these successes start taking place from this point forward.
So the next step is to create greater engagement, to identify the right products and services, whether they are Apps or -- I'm not going to do any plugs for some of my company, but we have social networks, we secure Internet. But these are only components. We need to bring it, as they call it, take it to the people, empower the local citizen, let him go and deploy. Hopefully something positive will happen from this.
And I keep it straightforward and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to speak my two cents. Thank you. (Applause)
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you for the inspiring intervention.
And now I give the floor to Dr. Kahn, who wants to reply to some of the comments.
>> ROBERT KAHN: I'd like to reply to the comment that you made before about the need for an Arab DNS. I have an objection to that. And it might serve a purpose, but it's not necessary. That is to say if you look at the registry technology that I described for you which we are trying to standardize through the ITU, which will allow you to register material in any form you like, any language, multiple languages, you can search it in those languages. What you get back is literally an identifier for the data structure, which means it's preservable over time and space. And the identifier is not related to DNS. It can be as simple as a number or any other strategy that you choose to use, and the identifiers can be in Uni code so they can be in Arabic or Chinese or whatever language you want.
The only lynchpin in the whole thing is assigning a number to the organisation creating it. And I think both of those are worth taking a serious look at. While going for an Arab DNS may be useful and I wouldn't oppose it, it really isn't necessary. And there are better strategies down the pike that I would just commend to you.
>> KHALED FATTAL: I don't think that we are disagreeing. The game that we have been discussing for the last ten years ago is how to create a single interoperable Internet. And that requires that -- and that required that if you're going to allow an Arabic Internet, it has to be part of that DNS. And as you probably recall, for many years the discussion was how to make it all interoperable. So I welcome other solutions that can come in and speed up the process. And I'm not objecting to that, but I think -- there is a significant lack of awareness at the local level of what is available in deploying at the end of the day services that allow the local user to use it in Arabic. You know, he doesn't care whether it's coming from this shop or that shop. He wants to be able to use it.
So by all means... definitely. Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you very much for all of the panelists. And now I'd like to open the floor for interventions. Please present yourself before you ask a question. I'll give the floor to you. Microphone, please.
>> Thank you. Well, Mr. Shepley from the Kuwait Society. I'd like to thank you for the comments that were made. We do appreciate that.
However, today on the Internet we have two types of content. We have the user generated content, like YouTube, social media, you name it. And we have the syndicated content or the copyrighted content, which most of the plenary has addressed in that term. And I do feel that the user generated content, which is exploding today beyond norms it doesn't need comment from us, and it went against all the odds in the Arab world and it's breaking every single body. So in terms of the user generated content, I would not address issues there, because the reality says it's exploding.
But, however, there are certain factors, really, that affect the development or the, let's say, the expansion and the eContent industry of the generation or the production of the general content in the Arab world.
First, if I am someone who is a writer, a writer of a book, a song writer, someone who is in the entertainment industry, I do have a problem with the economic return of this activity. Excluding the media industry in the Arab world, digital content is not revenue generating today. And that's a problem. While the user generated content like YouTube and other plugs are exploding, for me, if I want to publish my book online, today this is on the Arab world is not an income generating activity, and that is a problem. That's one of the obstacles.
That is leading us to the issue of copyrights. Today, we have books made by authors, published in that part of the world. Certainly, it is pirated in other Arab countries, and a it's published. Still, the author's name is there, but he is not getting the benefit of it. It's the publisher who reproduced that publication is getting the benefit of it, although all the Arab world has enough copyright laws that it protects authors' or content producers, but these laws are implemented to their benefit somehow. There are gaps in the implementation.
Another issue is the absence of eShops or eBookstores. Today we don't have, for example, an eBookstore for me to put my book and publish it and have this publisher online selling this book and making it available for the whole Arabic speaking audience. We don't have something the equivalent to Amazon.Com, for example. That is a problem.
When we come to the entertainment industry, we don't have something equal to iTunes, for example. In 2004 or 5, I don't remember, when there was a problem in a site in the US before they closed it down, I had the number of songs in (Off microphone.) Was 11 billion.
Another issue is of course the --
>> MONGI HAMDI: Please limit your intervention.
>> AUDIENCE: I just have a couple things and I'll wrap it up. Freedom of expression. The variation of that in the Arab world, the access issue, which has been addressed. Access to knowledge, laws that regulate and categorize information and say when it is disclosed and when it is kept, that is another part.
I agree with Shadi about the absence of tools.
And another issue that I want to access, to address, is content, Arabic digital content is not addressing the diversity within the Arab world. The Arab world by itself is diverse. There are other -- it's multilingual, too. And we are not addressing that and that's an obstacle.
Sorry to take that time, but I just wanted to --
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you. Please limit your interventions to questions directly to the panelists. And you have the floor.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. In fact, I enjoyed all of your presentations, so thank you very much.
The Question is here: My take away message from all of your discussions was this: Create content, content must be out there. Make it accessible. Let's preserve the language and so on. But really I worked in the region, in the Arab world. Perhaps what we should be looking at is why do we have less content online? Perhaps we should look at how do we make people create the content? And here is the punch line. What I noticed, for example, I live in another part of the world but I travel a lot to Syria, there are more books in Cairo than many of the other cities. The Question is how do we make people want to read? If people read, there will be content. I think that's where the weakness is. Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you. Please.
>> Thank you very much for all the panelists. First of all, I would like to thank the Arab organisation of ICT for organising this panel. And I think that this panel comes at the right moment and especially after the recent achievement of ICANN to -- allowing to have domain names in Arabic. I think that -- I think this can promote Arabic content.
Then I'd like to thank Shadi, my friend, for all of the help and for all of the collaboration for preparing a translation of the guidelines for accessibility for the W3C.
I want to ask a question. All panelists indicated that the proportion of Arabic content and the work is about 1 percent or less. So, my Question is, what about accessible Arabic content? I think the proportion is very, very, very little. And for this reason, I think it's very important to promote awareness about the accessibility of Web content and the importance of the accessibility of content to disabled people. I think this is a fundamental issue, because in many Arabic countries accessibility is not yet on the agenda. Of course, there are some Arabic countries that they have done many efforts in this way. And, for instance, for example, in Tunisia, government and NGOs are working and pushing well this way. And, for example, the decision of the president of the Republic of Tunisia to have all Web sites of governments and ministers and public institutions accessible. And now, in Tunisia we're working hard and new Web sites are under construction and the development to introduce accessibility guidelines, and this is very, very important.
So I think the awareness and second the training, because awareness is not enough. But the alliance, our technical requirements, and I think we need in the Arabic region, we need training of the webmaster and developer.
So I finish by saying that we welcome any contribution from Arabic Web experts, master, ICT developers, and to improve the accessibility and to promote the guidelines, and of course we are looking forward to collaboration (off microphone) and to promote this translation and to improve awareness about the importance of this.
>> AUDIENCE: (Off microphone.)
>> MONGI HAMDI: We will give you the chance to speak after --
>> AUDIENCE: (Off microphone.)
>> I'm Fernando Batavio, I'm originally from Brazil. I worked on strategies to scale up access to assistive and other technologies for persons with disabilities.
Because here, I want to emphasize, it doesn't matter so much what solutions are used in wealthy economy, because those are only accessible to the wealthy segments of the populations in developing countries. In other words, us. If we want to increase content and we want to increase access and we want to do it in really large scale, we need better strategies. And that is what I'm looking for.
I developed a strategy to do this in one of the most challenging segments of the population, which is blind and visually impaired. And there are an estimated 9 million blind Arab persons around the world. And I have a strategy to do this, but I don't have a key ingredient, which is speech synthesis, which is free and open sourced. And I cannot scale up in this language, even though I have a solution, I cannot do it. And to do this, to get free and open source speech synthesis, which just so everyone knows is the voice, the artificial voice that speaks the content, that speaks digital content, to do this we need significant investment.
Now, the Question is: Where can I look for leadership that wants to make this change? That does not want to depend on charity from companies or from governments, but wants to open source it and allow everyone, not just the large companies, not just one or two governments, but everyone, old and young, so that we get large scale and we get accessibility as well? Where can I look for leadership in terms of funding this technology? Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you. Could you give the floor, please.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. I'm a freelance researcher, youth activist from Beiroot Lebanon. And I just wanted to say that I think -- you talk about creating content and encouraging content to be created. And I think that you should have more faith in a bottom up approach to this. But I see, as a person who is pretty in touch with the -- the IT scene among youth, that the biggest factor that stops people from producing Arab content is fear of censorship and fear of crack downs on bloggers, on different people who have -- who are interested, who want to be speaking and writing in Arabic, who want to develop the Arab ICT scene but they are being prevented by their governments from doing that, because -- because they -- they are considered dissidents. And so I -- I feel this is a big elephant in the room.
And we talked about creating content and we only mentioned censorship once in passing in the very interesting presentation from people. And censorship is the biggest problem. We are the biggest perpetuators of censorship in the world. So I'd like to see someone address this more elaborately. Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: We will take one more Question and then give the panelists the chance to reply to some other questions.
>> I'm George Sidowski. I'm speaking here in my own personal capacity. It's always been a mystery to me why Arabic content has not flourished more on the Internet than it has. Because when you look at the origin of the Web, what you saw in at least in the English language was what I call content push. That is there was so much content in physics that wanted to be shared by so many people that this caused the Web to explode. And after the physics content exploded, it was clear what we had was not a physics machine, but a machine for generating and contributing any kind of content. And then the explosion really took off.
I want to address something else. The issue of the DNS recommendation. It seems to me that that it is not in the interests of the growth of Arabic content on the Internet to suggest the DNS is not necessary. We all want an interoperable Internet. And in the same way, we want I think also an interoperable structure for addressing content. And we have something like 190 million URLs, domain names. We have hundreds of millions of people who understand that structure. And the notion of establishing another structure, a competing structure, regardless of its merits right now, is probably not productive in the sense that now people who haven't been able to use one structure now are presented with a choice or they may have to learn two, because if they address content in Arabic they might have to go in one direction, and if they address content in English or French, they might have to go in another direction.
Now, it's clear what we don't have yet in the electronic space is a way, a resource locator system that is really good. We don't have it.
The HTTP format is a way of locating information. It's clumsy. It relies on rules for sub directories that users don't know. It's long, not readable and of course we have the problems of going to the IDN, which is a difficult problem and still not solved. The variant issue remains relevant. It's the elephant in the IDN room.
But there are no reasons why we can't look for better locator resources. There is no reason why we can't test ideas, such as the DOI that has been around for a long time and seems to be gaining attraction. But I don't think we should abandon the DNS nor our support for it trying to get content in other languages on to the Internet and particularly onto the World Wide Web. Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: We don't have too much time left for more questions. I would like to give the -- if you make it very short. In 30 seconds or less, so that we give a chance to the panelists to reply, please.
>> AUDIENCE: Just a question. I would like to know if there is something about women and the Arabic women and content. Is there something about -- is there some statistics? I would like to know if women participate on creating -- on progressing the content, something like that. Because even you have no big contents. I would like to know how women are going to go on with the Arabic region. Thank you.
>> I'm Miras and I'm from (Off microphone.) What caught my attention is that there are not many young people here in this room. And the second thing that got my attention is that there is a lot of funding, a lot of initiatives for all the work being done to promote content. And we all know that Arab incubators or investors have a lot of money. So the first Question is: Where is all of this money going? I believe that as someone who calls herself a Geek, and I'm in a lot of contact with other tech people, we are not really aware of Arab funding. I can say Arab techies are being funded by people from Sweden and many were funded by people from the Arab world. Where are you publishing the initiatives? How do we know about it? We want to help and work. But we are freelancers. It's interesting. Are there any platforms that we want to see that?
I want to say thank you to the people who sponsored us. And I hope to see all of the developers in the Syrian countries. They are kick Ass people. I thank you very much for the IGF.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you. We will reply to some of the questions.
>> ROBERT KAHN: I don't know whether you intended this for me, George, but you said one of the comments about finding out the better resource, which is what the registry is all about. So when you say there isn't one, I want to challenge that there is one, but it's just not being used, and specifically for Arabic content. It's widely used for English content and the like.
As for the DNS comment that you made, I was the one that selected the DNS in the first place. I'm all in support of the DNS continuing on, I have no objection to an Arab version of the DNS if there is such a thing. We can debate what the word "necessary" means, but the DNS was never really necessary for the Internet. It was an important application to make it easier to get access to IP addresses.
Everything that I've been talking about, about the use of identifiers, is compatible with the DNS. And the folks that you referred to as doing the DNI is part of the DNS. I'm saying that there are other alternatives that are equally powerful and we need an environment in which alternatives can flourish. If I said you need to get rid of this and replace it with that, I can appreciate your comment. But based on the reality as I see it, I don't see where the comment merits the kind of forcefulness that you applied to it.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you. Now I give the floor to Mr. Yousef Nusseir to apply.
>> YOUSEF NUSSEIR: I think the comment from the doctor regarding the return on investment, you answered it by saying that we don't have YouTube, we don't have an Amazon. Well, these are applications that are money making. If we do them in Arabic, then they will generate income. And there are many examples. And Mc Tube is a good example of an Arabic content software initiative that was eventually bought.
Now, as far as censorship, I don't think the lack of content has much to do with censorship. Censorship is not the reason for not having Arabic content. It might have a small effect, but it's not the reason, there are several other reasons.
As far as women is concerned, I think the lady asked about women and content. The Esqua project, and she is not listening, but the Esqua project on digital content is designed, managed, and run by a woman by the way. So there is nothing gender about eContent. Funding eContent is an important issue, yes. There is a lack of funding for eContent. But it's probably not because we don't have the funds. It's because there haven't been good projects that have been presented to donor agencies. And this is one of the reasons. Funds are there.
I think I've covered the ones I wanted to cover. Thank you.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Thank you very much. Now I give the floor to Mr. Fattal to respond briefly.
>> KHALED FATTAL: First of all, two young ladies who raised comments earlier on, which country are you from?
>> KHALED FATTAL: I salute you for making my point. Because if you were the example of Arabic Internet user, you would have had the opportunity to go and do a video blog, blog, give your opinion, and agree or disagree with what we were saying. And I think this is the point about empowering local communities, so that eContent can be created. So I'm agreeing with you by the way. We will debate it later on.
Secondly, secondly, there is a fundamental that is missing. The gentleman who raised the issue about the books, more books in Damascus very valid, but they are not on the Internet. I recall being in Lebanon in 2003, 4, and I met a publisher for a major Arabic newspaper. I mean major. We're talking major. He informed me that they digitized all of their publications all the way back to 1925. And I went why isn't it on the Internet so people can read it? This is an Encyclopedia of information. And he said how are they going to get to it and how are they going to pay for it? So, ladies and gentlemen, we have to address issues of accessibility and the means to pay for this, so that there is a business case for people to go out there and deploy their content.
So the book itself is not going to get deployed by itself. People will see an economic value to go put that content online and they will know that there is value, that constitutes a cost and it only will be spent if people know that there is a revenue.
So part of the solution is to provide eCommerce solutions on pan Arabic, which is something that we're looking at as well. Something to do with the content deployment being easy and a call to all Arab countries to address the issue of limiting the barriers and addressing censorship and freedom of expression, so that the point of trust, so if I put a comment online, I don't really need to feel that somebody is going to knock on my door at 2 a.m. and say what the hell are you talking about?
I close with that comment.
>> MONGI HAMDI: Since we don't have more time to for interventions, I just want to read some of the conclusions that emerged from these discussions, and first,
There is a lack of high-quality, appropriate and accessible websites for Arabic-speaking users.
The Arab world cannot succeed in improving digital literacy without increasing the quantity and quality of Arabic content on the Internet.
There is a need to understand why there is a lack of Arabic content on the Internet
Creating content in Arabic has been a major challenge to individuals and companies in many Arab countries as most of them face various obstacles in order to be able to create websites in their own languages. Some of these obstacles include illiteracy and difficulties with non-English content creation tools. Other obstacles may include government over-regulations and lack of funding to create content in Arabic.
There is a need to accelerate deployment of accessible web content by raising awareness for all stakeholders, by education, training and capacity building and by improving R&D, including in the area of open source.
Fortunately, currently there is a number of governments, regional organizations and private sector companies who are introducing initiatives to improve broadband quality, make internet access more affordable, and increase the amount of Arabic content online. Multinational ICT companies, such as Microsoft and Google are considering the Arab region as a potential market for their products and businesses.
Anyone can register material on the Internet in any language, including Arabic, in such digital object registry, software is available at: www.doregistry.org
And before I conclude, please join me in thanking ICT for these remarkable efforts to promote ICT deployment and the deployment of content.
Thank you for your attention.
(End of session)