Arab Knowledge Society: Who Represents the Arab World Online?

The Internet is often seen to be both an enabler and an equalizer, because it allows citizens a means to discuss their regions and businesses, to voice their concerns and to connect to the people they care about. However, access does not mean that everyone is equally willing or able to be a producer of knowledge for others. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that newcomers to online content production - especially those not from the West - are at a distinct disadvantage, and in many cases actively discouraged, from participating in the online knowledge society. Without their contribution, the Internet can fracture into distinct and even exclusive regions, despite the promise of a global village.

This project will explore this phenomenon through Wikipedia, a globally useful resource powering geographically-based content through Google, Facebook and many other websites. Wikipedia's culture of openness, extensive reuse and near ubiquity makes it an ideal place to focus on the process of content production and cultural representation. Researchers will ask the following questions. Where is content about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) being produced or not produced? Who is producing this content? Is MENA content an example of information self-determination, or is it produced by individuals with more procedural knowledge of Wikipedia than local knowledge?

Researchers will map, measure and explore Wikipedia content in Arabic, Persian, French and English related to the region. They will endeavor to determine whether there are disproportionately fewer articles on MENA than on other regions of the world; whether authors from MENA comprise disproportionately fewer of the contributors; and whether the centralized political structure of Wikipedia undervalues new contributors from MENA. Finally, they will reach out to potential producers of content on MENA through workshops, blogs and a multilingual website with a view to facilitating their contribution to areas in which they are under-represented.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

End Date

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


24 months

IDRC Officer

Smith, Matthew

Total funding

CA$ 304,100


Middle East, Central Asia, Far East Asia, South Asia


Networked Economies

Project Leader

Dr. Mark Graham


University of Oxford

Institution Country

United Kingdom

Institution Website