UAE 'army of volunteers' required to boost Arab authors profiles

Dubai - The 'Kateb Maktub' initiative by Emirates Literature Foundation is designed to boost the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia.

By Wam

Published: Tue 15 Dec 2020, 9:51 PM

Last updated: Wed 16 Dec 2020, 2:56 PM

The Emirates Literature Foundation, together with Google, has launched ‘Kateb Maktub’, an initiative that will vastly increase the presence and visibility of Arab authors online, ahead of World Arabic Language Day.

The initiative is designed to boost the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia, one of the world's most visited websites with more than 1 billion visitors per month.

Arab authors currently have fewer than 1,500 pages on Wikipedia, lagging far behind author pages in languages such as English, German, or French.

This puts writers from the region at a disadvantage, since they are not as easily discovered as their international peers. The initiative aims to increase the number of Arab author pages tenfold.

The Emirates Literature Foundation is now looking to recruit an "army of volunteers" to join the movement and become Wikipedia data editors, gathering and sharing content about Arab authors and books so they can be known worldwide. It is working closely with the UAE User Group of Wikipedia to gather information and train volunteers.

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

Ahlam continued: "The Kateb Maktub project was established to contribute to the development of a healthy digital publishing ecosystem in the Arab world, which currently struggles with issues such as lack of accessible information online, book piracy and lack of mainstream marketing of books and authors. We hope to tackle all of these touchpoints throughout this project and bring real change to the world of Arab literature."

"We are excited to be working with the Emirates Literature Foundation and the UAE's Wikipedia User Groups to enrich the web with information about the women and men who drive the region's literary heritage. Our work together will make it easier for anyone in the world to discover Arab writers and to find better information about them and their work in the near future," said Basel Hijazi, project lead and Google Product Marketing Manager.

The goal of publishing 15,000 Wikipedia pages dedicated to Arab authors, in English and Arabic, is expected to be completed by December 2022.

The Emirates Literature Foundation is joining ISNI as a Registration Agency. The ‘International Standard Name Identifier’ 16 digit number is attributed to each author and is the key to avoiding identity ambiguity online or offline, where names can be spelt differently, including in translation. As part of the ‘Kateb Maktub’ initiative, ELF will be attributing ISNI to all authors.

The Emirates Literature Foundation will be publishing biographical information on using ONIX standards. Each author will be assigned a unique URL, and each author page will be structured following international best practices. This information will help volunteer editors find information to create author Wikipedia pages.

Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, used daily by more than 290 million people.

World Arabic Language Day is celebrated every year on December 18 since 2012.

The date coincides with the day in 1973 that the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Arabic as its sixth official language.

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