Arabic tech-term translation app in the works

Sunday 05/03/2017
Ad for MeemApps, the brainchild of software engineer Eman Bushnaq. (Courtesy of Eman Bushnaq)

Amman - Eman Bushnaq discovered the need for an ever-growing number of online Arabic language users. The 33-year-old Jordanian software engineer and winner of the tech section in Jordan’s Applied Scientific Research Fund Women Innovators in Charge competition has been developing an online Arabic dictionary for business and technology terms.

“I decided to quit my full-time job in April 2016 to focus on starting my own internet-based business,” Bushnaq said. “I was so determined to build an e-platform that provides translations, explanations and defi­nitions of technical terminology and abbreviations in business and IT from English to Arabic.”

For Bushnaq the switch was a dream that she had been long con­templating. “I wanted to provide Arabic online users with the infor­mation they need. My aim is to con­tribute greatly to the improvement in the quality and quantity of on­line Arabic content,” she explained.

Bushnaq’s brainchild is called MeemApps, and is expected to be launched this year. The application provides a reference tool for instant translation of technical terms from English to Arabic

“It is the only online specialised dictionary in Arabic,” Bushnaq said. “The goal is to reach more 200,000 translated terms covering the fields of information technology, busi­ness and finance.”

Before embarking on her ambi­tious project, Bushnaq studied the market and learned that the Arabic version of Wikipedia is the ninth most visited site, despite being ranked 22nd in terms of content.

“This fact tells us a lot, notably that there is a huge demand for knowledge and information by online Arabic speakers and a lack of trusted online reference of in­formation in Arabic language,” she said.

“It shows there is no solid source of reliable, specialised and fully de­tailed definitions, explanations and Arabic translations of business ter­minologies.”

Bushnaq said the main challenge she was facing was creating con­tent. “The huge Arabic content that we’re creating is not available any­where online in a single app. Work­ing on translating specialised ter­minologies into Arabic would take months of hard work. There are more than 50,000 business terms alone,” she said.

“Another challenge is to promote this product as a reliable and credi­ble reference tool. That’s why we’re seeking partnerships and accredita­tion from different educational or­ganisations.”

Internet World Stats said the Ara­bic language ranked fourth behind English, Chinese and Spanish in languages used on the web in 2016.

“We aim to cover most of the business terms and create an online community for business students and professionals where they can ask questions, get answers and discuss different topics,” Bushnaq said.

What started as a self-funded project soon drew interest and sup­port from sponsors.

“I won a local competition, the Women Innovators in Charge; two months later I signed an agree­ment with Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation to fund the project for a year,” Bushnaq said.

With an estimated 42-50% of the population in the Middle East and North Africa region using the inter­net, Bushnaq is eyeing a significant market.

“We want to reach university stu­dents in different majors, including business, management, informa­tion systems, e-commerce, bank­ing and investment, accounting, finance and marketing,” she said.

“Our target market is huge and estimated to be around 40 million users.”

The online venture will be sup­ported by a smart application for iOS and Android systems; the beta version is expected to be out in April with the official launch planned for August.

Being a woman working in a male-dominated sector and in a patriarchal society is another chal­lenge facing the determined engi­neer.

“In Jordan and most Arab coun­tries women have the right talent hidden in them, waiting to be dis­covered by a society that believes in them,” she said.