Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | 4:09 PM
It was a perfect way to celebrate the Arab Spring. UNESCO last week marked its World Press Day in Tunisia, the country that led the rush for freedom in the Arab world. We sponsored the event, hosting Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki who met with Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House’s Vice President in Washington DC via an On Air Hangout on UNESCO’s Google+ page.
World Press Day marks an appropriate moment to review our progress in the Middle East and North Africa. We’re investing and digging deep roots. Over the past year, we have doubled our regional workforce. We have hosted g|daysreaching an estimated 12,000 entrepreneurs and developers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Our Google Media Academy has trained nearly 2,000 journalists.
Google products are going Arabic. Only about three percent of the web now is in Arabic, while more than 10 percent of the world’s web population speaks it as a mother tongue. In order to encourage more local content, we have launched eight local YouTube domains and 11 local maps domains. An Egyptian who searches YouTube is no longer directed to Western videos but instead is able to access local content. We have introduced Arabic versions of Voice Search, Driving directions for Maps, and Google+.
Many magic moments have occurred in the past year. We hosted celebrity high profile hangouts with entertainer Myriam Fares and the Arab world’s biggest pop star, Amr Diab. We also launched the Official Google Arabia Google+ page.
Earlier this month, two Qatar museums, Museum of Islamic Art and Mathaf, joined the Google Art Project. Egypt, the first episode of "Inside Google" aired on Al Hayat Al Youm, Egypt's number one Prime Time TV show. Egypt’s very own Amr Mohamed became a global finalist in the YouTube Space Lab. And next week we will crown a national winner for the Ebda2 with Google competition to provide local entrepreneurs seed capital to start their own business kickstarting the internet ecosystem in Egypt to flourish.
This Arabization drive is producing impressive results. Google searches are up by 25 percent year on year in the region. Some 167 million YouTube videos are viewed each day in the Middle East and Africa - the second highest number in the world, behind the U.S. and ahead of Brazil. These daily views represent 112 percent increase since last October - more than double the views in just one year. An hour of YouTube video is uploaded each minute in the Middle East and North Africa. Since the launch of our local map domains, we have seen 50 percent growth in maps usage throughout the region.
Our goal is clear – to become part of the local landscape, giving people around the Middle East and North Africa access to information, preferably in their own language. For us, our contribution to UNESCO’s World Press Day represents yet another strong step towards this goal.