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    PM Nazif Inaugurates NAE Digitalization Project

    Cairo, 14 December 2009
    Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif inaugurated today the National Archives of Egypt (NAE) Digitization Project in the presence of Minister of Communications and Information Technology Dr. Tarek Kamel and Minister of Culture Mr. Farouk Hosni.

    The project is a partnership between Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), represented by the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT), and Ministry of Culture, represented by the NAE.

    The project is based on the production of digital versions of more than 90 million documents, only from 10% -15 % of which were previously available for researchers. A database containing over 25 million records has been finalized. The NAE employees have been trained on indexing data, data entry and dealing with state-of-the-art technologies and internationally applied databases.

    Dr. Kamel stated that the project dates back to 2005 following an agreement signed with Minister Hosni. It is one of the major projects that we strongly depend on to boost Arabic e-content on the web, which is a real challenge for us in the coming phase, he added.

    Despite the increasing number of internet users in the Arab World, statistics indicate a limited contribution of Arabic online content, which amounts to no more than 1%, Dr. Kamel noted.

    The chance is higher after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) had allowed the registration of Arabic domain names, Dr. Kamel said.

    For his part, Mr. Hosni stated that the NAE acts as a historic reference for Egypt, keeping more than 90 million documents about the history of Arab countries and East and Central Africa. The NAE, he added, is one of the most important archives in Egypt and the Middle East.

    Cooperation with MCIT helped us make use of what advanced technological applications can provide in digitizing documents and preparing a detailed database for saving and restoring data based on international electronic archiving systems, Mr. Hosni said. The rapid pace of IT offered new concepts of information provision, he added.

    Dr. Mohamed Saber Arab, Chairman of National General Authority of Books and Manuscripts (NGABM), pointed out that the agreement between the two ministries established new concepts for the provision of informational and documents for researchers and students of different fields of humanities like history, political science, archeology and sociology.

    The NAE has been working since 1828, during the reign of Mohamed Ali Pasha, on preserving the country's heritage of documents and manuscripts covering the Fatimid, Ayoubi, Mamlouki, Ottoman eras then the 19th century and the end of the 20th.

    The rare and significant properties of the NAE narrate the history of the region in different eras, Dr. Arab noted. "The NAE is one of the most important archives in the Middle East, which reflects the focal role Egypt plays in the region."

    Dr. Hoda Baraka, First Deputy to Minister of Communications and IT, said that the consortium carrying out the project used modern speech Synthesis Technologies for collecting data verbally via digital recording devises based on International Standard Archival Desorption (ISAD).

    The voice data was then transferred to entry centers outside the NAE through a local network. After entering and revising the data, it was sent to the main server in batches. Applications for data entry and spelling check was used and retested afterwards. Finally, Digital Watermark technologies were used to preserve the safety of the product from distortion.

    The consortium that implemented the project is composed of IBM Corp, Allied Soft and IS Technologies.

    According to CULTNAT Director Dr. Fathi Saleh, not only does the importance of the NAE Digitization Project lay in the value of the documents at the NAE, it also facilitates such a national project for the public in a simple way.

    These papers, Dr. Saleh added, document the life of the Egyptian people in different ages. Some of the NAE documents date back to 1147 AD
    A comprehensive index of the NAE documents is available on www.nationalarchives.gov.eg, showcasing the history of Egypt and the region through documents in an interesting educational manner that stresses Egypt's role across the different eras. 

    The project offered fresh graduates about 2000 job opportunities. They received high-quality training before joining the project.

    The digitization process of documents realized the expected targets, which include:
    • Preserving the properties of the NAE and facilitating them for researchers
    • Finalizing a digital database for millions of documents and files, while preserving and restoring the original ones by decreasing usage and depending on digital copies
    • Contributing to the increase of Arabic e-content and publishing a selected group of digital photos for the documents online
    • And completing the foundation of an advanced search system linked to the internet to raise the quality of operations inside the NAE and develop the utilization of technology to support data archiving and sorting.

    The project has been awarded the Arab Federation for Libraries and Information (AFLI) prize for 2009 as the best in the field across the Arab World.


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