x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Sky's the limit for UAE Wikipedia

The UAE has launched a Wikipedia-like website featuring articles on the country's history that can be edited by users.

The UAEPedia will offer articles on the history and culture of the UAE. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
The UAEPedia will offer articles on the history and culture of the UAE. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

The UAE has launched a Wikipedia-like website with the aim of boosting the number of Arabic pages on the internet.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) yesterday unveiled UAEPedia, which offers articles on Emirati culture and history.

The public will be allowed to contribute to the site and modify articles, using an open-source framework similar to Wikipedia.

The UAEPedia is currently available in Arabic, but other languages are expected to be added later.

It currently has more than 1,000 articles on topics such as geography, history, economy, language and literature.

Salem Khamis Al Shair Al Suwaidi, the deputy director general at the TRA, said this amounted to 300,000 words and that the aim was to more than triple this over the next six months.

"We hope that by March there will be a million words - and the sky's the limit," he said.

The site, which was launched during Gitex Technology Week, is accessible at www.uaepedia.ae.

Mr Al Suwaidi said UAEPedia would reflect "a government point of view". A team of moderators will monitor the content for accuracy and use of Arabic.

"We don't have a history of government trying to forge information in order to gain public sympathy," said Mr Al Suwaidi. "The Government, when it interferes, is just to make sure that the information is correct."

Mr Al Suwaidi said the launch of the site was a response to a call made by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to increase the amount of Arabic content online.

About 1.5 per cent of Web pages are in Arabic, which means the language is under-represented given that it is the world's fifth most-spoken language.

Some in the industry argue that the more Arabic websites that exist, the greater opportunity there is to profit from the internet through advertising and e-commerce.

Web companies such as Google have also made attempts to increase Arabic content online, including on sites such as Wikipedia.