Digital Arabic content (DAC) fosters the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Arab region on the Internet, improves access to and benefit from the Internet, and preserves Arabic cultural and historical archives in digital form.
ESCWA defines DAC as any content in Arabic represented in digital form on the Internet (or in other formats such as CDs, DVDs, etc). Digital Arabic content includes websites, portals, e-services, and audio and video content. It also includes software, databases, and open source products supporting Arabic language functionalities and tools, such as Arabized software interfaces such as word processors, Arabic language processing software including speech and character recognition programs, and search and translation engines.
The development of DAC paves the way for digital transformation at the national, local and institutional levels. It contributes to sustainable socioeconomic development and supports the creation of job opportunities and startups.
ESCWA is supporting various stakeholders in promoting the DAC industry in the Arab region. It has proposed policies and strategic actions to enhance the enabling environment for the DAC industry, and suggested mechanisms and practical approaches for the private sector, non-governmental organizations and entrepreneurs. ESCWA has also provided an estimation of the market size of the DAC industry, collected the most relevant business models for this industry, and suggested mechanisms for enhancing the quality of DAC.
ESCWA objectives are in line with the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society to bridge digital gaps, including in digital content. They are also in line with the 2030 Agenda, specifically SDG 17.
The efforts made under this initiative can be described through the following phases:
- Developing policy and strategy for digital Arabic content in the Arab region, 2003-2007.
- Promoting digital Arabic content and innovation through incubation, 2007-2015.
- Supporting DAC initiatives, especially through the Arab Forum for Digital Arabic Content, 2013-2021.
- Encouraging the creation of relevant and innovative content for sustainable development through the ESCWA Digital Arabic Content Award, launched in 2021 as an annual award.
ESCWA partners in this initiative and its activities include:
- League of Arab States
- Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization (AICTO)
- International Telecommunication Union - Arab Regional Office (ITU-ARO)
- Arab League of Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (ALECSO)
- Ministries of communication and technology in Arab countries, especially in Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates
- World Summit Awards
- Incubators in Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Since 2003, regional activities have included studies, expert meetings, workshops, conferences and partnerships. The studies have covered policy aspects, technical matters, surveys and business models.
- In 2021, ESCWA partnered with the World Summit Awards on the ESCWA Digital Arab Content Awards to recognize efforts to develop digital Arabic content for sustainable development in the Arab region. The Award was announced at the 2021 Arab Forum for Sustainable Development (AFSD). It is an annual process that targets institutions and young entrepreneurs from all Arab countries, highlights the benefits of digital technologies for advancing sustainable development, and promotes the creation of quality content related to the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Over the period 2013-2020, ESCWA contributed to the organization of the digital Arabic content forums that were held in Egypt in 2013 and 2014, in the United Arab Emirates in 2015, and in Qatar in 2020.
- ESCWA collaborated with business incubators and universities in several Arab countries to organize awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of DAC, and launch innovative competitions aimed at entrepreneurs aspiring to establish DAC companies. Two rounds of national competitions were held in 2008 and 2013 under the title "Thinking digital? Let’s innovate in Arabic!", and covered eight countries, namely Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the State of Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
- ESCWA published reports related to the DAC industry for the Arab region, and discussed their content at expert meetings.
- ESCWA organized several capacity-building workshops at the regional and national levels on the DAC industry for young entrepreneurs.