Arab InfoMall Portal
Inspired by the Ancient Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) makes every effort to consider all points of view and encourage dialogue in Egypt and the Arab world. It also aspires to be an effective catalyst for reform and development in the region and to serve as a meeting point for Arab civil society organizations. In order to achieve this goal, it is crucial to provide Egyptian and Arab civil society an opportunity for exposure and interaction locally, regionally and globally, while enriching their awareness of other active civil society organizations (CSOs).
How did it start?
A suitable environment was needed in which Arab and Egyptian CSOs could interact and play a prominent role in improving civic awareness. On the recommendations of the First Arab Reform conference held at BA in March 2004, the Arab InfoMall was established to serve as a meeting point for Arab civil society and to enrich CSOs’ knowledge of other organizations and their activities.
What is the InfoMall?
The Arab InfoMall emulates a mall or center for non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in a tri-lingual (Arabic, English, French) web portal. Each organization is presented as a kiosk/boutique inside the mall. The InfoMall provides a web access point through which Egyptian and Arab NGOs can both present their activities and observe what others are doing at the national and regional levels, presenting means of cooperation between civil society organizations in the Arab world and abroad. The exchange will allow them to actively participate in published reform activities and will pave the way to creating stronger and more fruitful partnerships.
The website was officially launched on 16 November 2005 during the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) Tunis phase with messages from Mr. Kofi Annan – UN Secretary General at the time, Dr. Tarek Kamel – Egypt's Minister of Communication and Information Technology, and Dr. Ismail Serageldin – BA Director.
The website (http://arabinfomall.bibalex.org) sheds light on NGOs/CSOs activities and successful projects. The website comprises a logging-in mechanism so that users and visitors would be identified. All civil society organizations are classified alphabetically, geographically, and according to their fields of interest and activities. A dedicated workspace for each organization shows the organization’s details, contact information, and areas of interest. A bulletin board for each NGO publicizes its news and events. A common bulletin board is also available for the entire mall. A search facility searches within all organizations’ information, news, events and reports. Private and public discussion forums give the opportunity for interested individuals to exchange opinions through a discussion forum, and contribute and share published reports. Recently two new sections were added to the website;“Opportunities” and “Voting” sections. The Opportunities section is a space in which each organization shows the projects it is involved in and any available job vacancies. Meanwhile, the Voting section gives the users a chance to vote on different issues and then view the voting results.
Moreover, the website interface was translated into Arabic and French and a web-based backend application was developed to allow NGOs to enter their data, news, events, etc, and a user manual was developed to assist data entry personnel while using the backend. The database is being fed with NGO data collected by the BA Dialogue Forum personnel. Data for over 600 organizations are currently available under 15 themes from 37 countries.
Beyond the Arab world..
Soon after the launch of the project, more and more organizations from outside the Arab world starting to join the InfoMall. About 20 organizations from over 13 non-Arab countries are now available.
The project is generously supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and has also received a grant from the Embassy of Finland in Cairo. From the latter, a new server was purchased in December 2006.
Partners & participants:
- Bibliotheca Alexandrina – ICT and Dialogue Forum Departments
Last updated on 10 Feb 2008