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The rapidly advancing high technology area of Computer Science is dependent on language dependent tools and techniques. The literature for these tools and techniques is overwhelmingly concentrated in English. Well recognized bodies that make standards for these tools and techniques (ANSI, ISO, etc.) are heavily influenced by English. Third world countries that import these tools and techno logy as part of their technology import program face a large problem of technology transfer: training. Third world countries, where English is not the first language, the methods to filter and control the potentially unlimited flux of information must include methods to deal with the language issue. Universities like ours, are, through their faculty research and development, contributing heavil y towards developing the methods to deal with the language issue. Our Computer Science degree programs have an active track in Arabization. Our student projects in overwhelming numbers concentrate on Arabization. At R&D level, our faculty colleagues actively pursue research in Arabization. Private industry is also contributing to this effort by offering tools and techniques (Arabic Windows, WY SIWYG Word Processors, Spread Sheets, Database Management Systems, etc.) There is also an effort for developing Standards for this Arabization. However, the solutions that we share with the reader of this paper are localized solution at the national level and do raise issues of portability, interoperability, etc. across national boundaries. There is a need to have "multi lingual" tools and tec hniques as well as standards for a better solution, and the third world countries ought to collectively look at them. These needs are also discussed in the paper.
In a recent paper, Belkin and Croft1 discuss some important concerns about the importance of information and making it available to its receiving end users:
"The promise of the information age entails making information available to people any time, any place and in any form. Realizing such a promise depends on innovations in areas that impact the creation of information services and their communication infrastructures. However, this realization can easily become a mixed blessing without methods to filter and control the potentially unlimited flux of information from sources to their receiving end users"Emerging new technologies in this information age are making a significant impact on the society as well as on the organizations within a society. As pointed out by Samarajiva2, in developing nations in particular, external communication is essential to productive scientific activity. The external communication with the sources from where the technology is being imported or transferred must ove rcome any linguistic barriers. The literature for the technology being imported or transferred in to a third world country is overwhelmingly concentrated in English. Third world countries that participate in a technology import program face a large problem of technology transfer: training. Third world countries, where English is not the first language, the methods to filter and control the p otentially unlimited flux of information must include methods to deal with the language issue.
Let us first examine what barriers to technology transfer to the third world countries have been identified by previous researchers and how does the language issue rank among these barriers. Al Tayyeb3 wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on the subject of information technology transfer to Saudi Arabia. As part of his research, Al Tayyeb identified several socio cultural and technical barriers to succes sful information technology transfer to developing nations such as Saudi Arabia. Socio cultural barriers included communication between vastly different societies in terms of culture and religion. Since languages are to some degree closely intermixed with the culture, linguistic barrier was to a partial degree identified. However, we will go into the linguistic barrier in detail.
In a recent paper, Al Tayyeb and Wrenn4 identified an important barrier: "The lack of internationally accepted standards can also be a barrier to effective transfer of technology." We feel that if the language in which the training material, support material, and standards for the technology being transferred are expressed is a foreign language to the country importing the technology, then the language can be the/a larger barrier, because it will be the first barrier.
Mandurah and Bakri5 surveyed the methods and techniques utilized to measure the transfer of information technology in the light of science and technology indicators. They suggested that such indicators should include: measurement of the use of computer literacy, measurement of the attitude towards computers, survey of applications of information technologies, and the influence of information te chnologies on productivity. The relative ease in transferring the emerging technologies could be visualized by combining the socio technical barriers in a matrix. While such a visualization is subjective in nature and far from being quantitative, this approach allows one to see the relative strengths and weakness (in terms of transferability) of multiple technologies. Under the approach of Man durah and Bakri, e mail and Arabic computers were placed on the low end on the barrier line, while AI systems were on the high end. Our thesis is that e mail users have reached a level of comfort in English, that they did not find difficulty in its use, and hence the low end placement of e mail. AI systems required heavy use of English by users who were not as comfortable with it as the e mail users.
Rogers6 found five factors in the successful transfer of technology:
Saudi Arabia is a big importer of the information and computer technology. The official language here is Arabic, and English is not the first language. Therefore, universities like ours, did, through their faculty research and development, contribute heavily towards developing the methods to deal with the language issue. Our Computer Science degree programs have an active track in Arabization . Our student projects in overwhelming numbers concentrate on Arabization. At R&D level, our faculty colleagues actively pursue research in Arabization. Private industry is also contributing to this effort by offering tools and techniques (Arabic Windows, WYSIWYG Word Processors, Spread Sheets, Database Management Systems, etc.) There is also an effort for developing Standards for this Arabiza tion.
As examples of the numerous student graduation projects and graduate theses related to the Arabization effort, we will cite some work to give the reader an idea about this effort. A team of three graduating seniors: A. G. Al Tamimi, A. M. Al Hedaithy, and I. A. Abu Abat, as part of their graduation project under the guidance of Dr. Mohammed El Affendi developed an Arabic WYSIWYG (What You See I s What You Get) Tool for Desktop Publishing7. Desk Top Publishing (DTP) and Word Processing (WP) software with graphic user interfaces was attracting a lot of attention, but its use in Saudi Arabia could be fruitful only if it provided Arabic interface. The major objective of this project was to design a WYSIWYG tool so that the user could write documents, edit them, print hard copies without a ny English.
Another example of such a useful project arose from the need of our College's Research Center (RC). RC receives many Arabic documents, letters, and reports on a daily basis there was no automated way of keeping track of these documents. Two graduating seniors, Omar Al Sheikh and Abdullatif Al Sheikh, under the guidance of Mr. Badiuddin Syed designed and implemented a DTS Document Tracking Syste m8, using Mussaed's Alarabi as an interface for Arabization.
In scientific and business environments, writers often need to produce diagrams, charts, and shapes to be included in their work. Most of the available drawing, charting, and shapes producing graphic programs operate in Latin mode only. This isolates the Arabic author from the features provided by a high tech graphic program. Thus a group of two graduating seniors: Abdulrahaman A. Al Boraithen and Ahmed A. Al Dayel, under the supervision of Dr. Mohammed El Affendi proposed and completed a project entitled: "Developing an Arabic Tool for Composing Diagrams and Graphic Shapes from Primitive Shapes,"9. In the project, these students designed and implemented drawing package that allowed the user to produce diagrams composed of simple primitives using simple script Arabic language. The diagrams included trees, flow charts, networks, graphs, etc. The Arabic script language was the main interface between the user and the package, and it freed the user from dependence on English.
However, the solutions that we have mentioned above are localized solution at the university level, and there are some similar projects at the national level. These projects do raise issues of portability, interoperability, etc. across national boundaries. There is a need to have "multi lingual" tools and techniques as well as standards for a better solution, and the third world countries ought to collectively look at them. There has been little effort world wide to meet these needs. We believe that because of the economic interests, the third world countries will have to take initiatives in this regard. Many good quality software tools are giving a limited choice of script, rarely if ever including a script of a language from a third world country. We hope that this will change. < p>
1. Nicholas J. Belkin and W. Bruce Croft, "Information Filtering and Information Retrieval: Two sides of the same coin," ACM Communications, Volume 35, Number 12, December 1992, Pp. 26 38.
2. R. Samarjiva, "Appropriate Technology for Secondary Information Delivery to Small Third World Countries: Print, Microform, On line, or CD ROM," Proceedings of the 51st ASIS Meeting, Volume 25, 1988, Pp. 17 22.
3. M. A. Al Tayyeb, "Information Technology Transfer to Saudi Arabia", Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1982.
4. M. A. Al Tayyeb and T. T. Wrenn, "Socio- technical Factors in the Transfer of Information Technology to Saudi Arabia", Proceedings of the 13th National Computer Conference, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 1992, Pp. 24 35.
5. M. Mandurah and S. Bakri, "Towards a National Information Policy in Saudi Arabia," Proceedings of the 12th National Computer Conference, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 1990.
6. E. M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovation, Third Edition, New York, Free Press, 1983.
7. A. G. Al Tamimi, A. M. Al Hedaithy, and I. A. Abu Abat (Faculty Advisor: Dr. Mohammed El Affendi), Developing an Arabic WYSIWYG Tool for Desktop Publishing, Graduation Project Report, Computer Science Department, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 1993.
8. Omar Al Sheikh and Abdullatif Al Sheikh (Faculty Advisor: Badiuddin Syed), DTS Document Tracking System, Graduation Project Report, Information Systems Department, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, July 1993.
9. Abdulrhman A. Al Boraithen and Ahmed A. Al Dayel (Faculty Advisor: Dr. Mohammed El Affendi), Developing an Arabic WYSIWYG Tool for Desktop Publishing, Graduation Project Report, Computer Science Department, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 1993.
We would like to thank Mr. Badiuddin Syed for his assistance with the research on student projects done at King Saud University and mentioned in this paper.