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"Welcome to Wikipedia" (Wikipedia brochure front cover in Arabic)

The Wikimedia Foundation is excited to share the first draft of our Arabic Language Initiative strategy, and to invite applicants for the role of an Arabic Language Initiative Director (consultant) based in the region to lead the initiative. We are seeking a creative leader who is passionate about the mission of freely sharing the sum of all knowledge in Arabic. Great candidates will have an understanding of the challenges facing the Arabic Wikipedia and Arabic web content in general, and will have regional experience that enables him/her to navigate comfortably with communities from Marrakech to Muscat.

The Arabic Language Initiative was initiated in October 2011 as a catalyst strategy program alongside similar programs in Brazil and India. Our ultimate goal is developing a vibrant Arabic Wikipedia community that will build and sustain a rich encyclopedia that meets the aspirations of over 350 million Arabic speakers. Currently, there are 645 active Arabic Wikipedia contributors (as of April 2012) and we seek to expand this number to 1,000 within a year.

Over the past eight months, Wikimedia and the Arabic Wikimedia community have focused on empowering community participation in decision making, seeking out opportunities for partnerships in Arabic language countries, and learning from past and ongoing activities. Our approach for expanding the contribution base depends on online and offline programs. In April, we began work to design an editors contribution pilot program to develop new approaches to attracting and supporting new editors on Arabic Wikipedia. We have spent time in six countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia) to encourage the existing Wikipedia editors to build local communities and to form relationships with groups and organizations who share our mission and are interested in developing programs that help advance the Initiative.

We have already established partnerships with the Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) which provides partial financial support and seeks to develop supporting programs. We recently entered a partnership with Taghreedat, the popular Twitter-based initiative. They are planning to conduct Wikipedia workshops in a number of cities and are exploring other initiatives. We are working with groups in Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon to explore partnership opportunities and are on the look out for additional partners.

In July, we will conclude the first semester of the Education Pilot program in Cairo. To date, the seven participating classes at Cairo University and An-Shams University have successively contributed to editing 267 articles, adding more than 1.1 million bytes to the Arabic Wikipedia. We will be holding a workshop in Cairo at the beginning of July to review the results and plan the next steps for the program and we expect to expand the pilot in the coming months.

We will finalize the strategic plan after more community discussion and as we engage the Initiative Director. We welcome new ideas from the community and are seeking to support initiatives at the local level and/or new pilots on the wikis.

We believe in the strong opportunities of a growing and developing Arabic Wikipedia, and we need all hands in sustaining the growing momentum around the Arabic activities. Please keep an eye on our progress, share your ideas and actively reach out to us to become part of the mission that shall dramatically change the status of Arabic content on the web.

Moushira Elamrawy

Egypt-based Arabic Projects consultant