Tag Archives: Google in the Middle East

Funding 21 news projects in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey

Finding new and meaningful ways to engage readers is a hot topic for news organizations of any size, and the first Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa prompted a myriad of different approaches. The GNI Innovation Challenges,  part of Google’s $300 million commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age, saw news innovators step forward with new thinking. In South Africa, Daily Maverick proposed a “relevancy engine” that would aggregate data feeds about reader behavior for small and medium publishers. In Jordan, podcast startup Sowt looked to tackle the challenge with a new hosting platform for news podcasts.

We launched the Middle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge last June, and received 527 applications from 35 countries. After a rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process, we selected 21 projects from 13 countries to receive $1.93 million in funding.

The call for applications listed four criteria: impact, feasibility, innovation and inspiration, and the successful projects clearly demonstrated all four. Here are just a few of the awardees (you can find the full list on our website):

  • Demirören Teknoloji Anonim Şirketi in Turkey wants to solve the tagging process for the Turkish language to help with the news discovery distribution process. Currently this work requires cumbersome manual work from their journalists, taking a precious share of their time. 

  • Daily news publisher Israel Hayom will be creating a loyalty scheme where online users get real-life rewards in the form of tickets or money-saving offers. 

  • Nas News wants to engage Iraq’s citizens in video debates for positive change with a mobile-first social and news platform that allows users to read and debate on local and national topics.

  • L'Orient le Jour in Lebanon wants to build a new loyalty plan to offer special and personalized privileges to subscribers via an interactive platform.

  • The National in the UAE will develop a service that converts quality text news into audio in real time, in both English and Arabic.

  • Ringier Africa Digital Publishing in Nigeria will be increasing personalization across their platform using a blend of prediction, recommendation and local information pages to increase user engagement.

A second round of theMiddle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge will open for applications later in the year: Watch for details on our website.

Making our products more helpful in Arabic

Today, we’re announcing new products in the Middle East and North Africa, a region connected by a common language, Arabic. The Arabic language, beautiful yet complex, is written from right-to-left, has a range of dialects, and one word can mean many different things depending on the context. For our products to be helpful, they need to understand the nuances of the language. 

Visual Search in Arabic

Cinema, music and sports are three of the things people search for the most in Arabic. We’re now showing answers to popular questions in a simple box, so that you can get information faster. For example, if you’re looking to watch a movie, you will find in one box all the movie theaters on the map, the list of movies being aired, showtimes and sometimes a link to book your ticket. Similarly, if you’re searching for Mo Salah, the Egyption football star, you will see his biography, his past goals with Liverpool and the Egyptian National team, and also videos of games and tournaments he played in. 

Celebrities are another topic that people search for a lot. So we’re launching Cameos, a feature on Google Search where celebrities can post videos on the Search homepage answering popular questions about them. For example, if you search for Egyptian actress Yosra El Lozy, you can scroll through videos where she answers many questions like what is a cause she cares about and what is the best advice she got as an actress.   


Cameo feature on Search in Arabic

Google Assistant: “Okay Google, speak to me in Arabic.”

Talking to your phone to get information from Google or to get things done is becoming more popular. In Arabic too, people use it to navigate traffic, search the web, or play music. Earlier this year, we launched the Assistant in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and people have been asking it to make calls, sing lullabies for children and listen to music (“Okay Google, play Fayruz” is one of the most popular commands.) 

Today, the Assistant will be available in an additional 15 countries in the region—United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Mauritania.

Google Maps: navigate the world, get things done, and stay safe

Whether you’re driving or a passenger, everyone wants to feel safe on the road. We’re introducing a feature that gives you an “off-route alert” when your driver has deviated from the suggested route by more than 500 meters. You can also choose to share your live trip with friends and family directly from that screen so they know where you are.

Maps Safety in Arabic

Stay Safer feature on Maps

Helping motorcyclists get through traffic with Google Maps in Egypt

There are more than four million motorbikes in Egypt and the heavy Cairo traffic can affect their journey times. Motorcycle mode on Maps helps motorcyclists avoid congestion on Egypt’s busiest highways by following shortcuts and local roads and have an accurate expected arrival time. This feature is coming next to Algeria and Tunisia, and more countries soon. 

Two Wheel Mode

Image of motorcycle mode on Maps in Egypt

Investing in digital skills: Unlocking opportunities for young Arabs 

By next year, one in five jobs in the Arab world will require digital skills. In 2018, we launched our Arabic digital skills program, “Maharat min Google,” which has reached more than 500,000 young people, women and underprivileged students. 130,000 of those were able to find jobs, grow their careers and their businesses. We want to continue that effort. So today, Google.org is giving a $ 1 million grant to Injaz, an NGO that specializes in youth training, to scale their digital skills program to reach a further 100,000 people in 2020.

Every day, people in the Middle East and North Africa turn to Google for help. We hope that the products and updates we're announcing today will make Google even more helpful for finding things out and getting things done. And we’re excited to play our part in unlocking this region’s digital opportunity.