Increasing Awareness of the Importance of Knowledge in the Arab World

  • 2 April 2007

The world is in the midst of an information explosion in all fields and knowledge has become the basis for power. The acquisition of knowledge leads one ahead to excel and to have influence, and for this reason the pursuit of knowledge is the feature of today’s world. In this respect, the tools for the acquisition and publication of knowledge and for increasing its awareness has become important, especially after revolutionary changes took place in communications, printing, publishing, and distribution. It is here that international information network, known as the Internet, has gained prominence. This network has transformed the world into one interactive global village, and has broken down all barriers. It has facilitated the means for acquiring information in a speedy manner. What has become important also are the online book galleries that allow one to know about the latest publications in all disciplines of knowledge. Although the Arab world is enjoying the benefits of this information revolution, it is still standing at the sidelines and it still has a long way to go before fully embracing it. It is not yet fully aware of the importance and positive benefits. According to recently released statistics, Arabs are among the last on the list of Internet users in the world, as the number of Arabic speaking Internet users has risen to around 28 million, while the English-speaking internet users are said to top 329 million. While Arab internet users represent 4% of the total population of the Arab world, this percentage has risen to 27% in advanced countries, and Arabic websites on the Internet do not exceed 6% of the total number of websites on the Internet. Of course, this does not mean that there has been no pioneering Arab work in the domain of the Internet, as the UAE experience itself reveals much progress. A report by the World Information Technology for 2006 / 2007 reveals that the UAE is the first among Arab countries in the Net Readiness indicator, a measure registering the efficiency of countries in providing investment opportunities for Information Technology.

However, the poor situation in the Arab world as regards the Internet is also reflected in the poor attendance at book fairs in Arab countries. The book fairs in the Arab world have limited appeal and capabilities compared to the specialized fairs of the rest of the world. However, this does not mean that major fairs are not developing annually. Among these, the topmost is the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair that began its latest edition on March 31, 2007 in a new and different form. The book fair is now placed at the level of advanced fairs that are run and organized professionally. It is similar in approach and presentation to other international fairs, especially the “Frankfurt Book Fair.”

The Arab Human Development report has placed “knowledge” among the three major deficiencies facing the Arab world. This requires special attention and greater awareness of its importance at all levels. Perhaps, what gives hope in light of the generally gloomy Arab situation is that there are Arab countries that are moving on the right path in this regard. In time, it is hoped this knowledge deficit in the Arab world would be overcome.