Qatar forum to debate importance of Arabic in digital age

The meeting of 20 scientists will be hosted by Qatar Foundation (QF) this week

By Habib Toumi - January 19, 2011

Manama: The growing importance to the Arabic language in the digital age will figure high on the agenda of a forum in Qatar on enhancing Arabic natural-language processing technologies.

The meeting of 20 scientists to be hosted by Qatar Foundation (QF) this week will discuss how the recently formed Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) can take a proactive role in boosting Arabic in modern technologies.

QCRI initiated the expert roundtable to identify areas in computational research where it can take an important role by listing the expertise required to address the problem, crafting methods for better data acquisition, or identifying synergies with external partners, the official said.

The participants from nine different countries include leading academics from Qatar University, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ), Columbia University, US, Sorbonne University, France and Dublin University, Ireland, as well as representatives from global giants such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and IBM.

Arabic has traditionally been an oral language which presents challenges in the application of language technologies.

"The future of the Arabic language is digital and QCRI is seeking to leverage technologies to keep Arabic alive and well in the digital world," Ahmad Elmagarmid, QCRI executive director said, quoted by Qatari daily Gulf Times.

Participants in the two-day conference will also explore how publications, patents, and technology can be used to maintain Arabic as a leading language and identify ways to build robust and fruitful collaboration with industrial and academic research communities.

"We have faculty members here in Qatar currently conducting language technology research-projects related specifically to Arabic language processing who will be engaged in the sessions," Prof Kemal Oflazer, CMUQ Computer Science Programme coordinator and a human language technologies expert, said.

"QCRIs initiative to bring together researchers and international experts in the field will raise the visibility of language technology work in the region, and help to boost progress in a field that is of growing importance to the Arabic language in the digital age.

QF established QCRI in August 2010 as part of an initiative to create specialised research institutes that would benefit Qatar and the wider world.