Arabic software pioneer Mohammed Al-Sharekh passes away at 82

RIYADH: Mohammad Al-Sharekh, the Kuwaiti entrepreneur who made history by becoming the first person to develop an Arabic-language operating system for computers, passed away on Wednesday at 82.

Kuwait’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters stated on X: “The General Secretariat conveyed the condolences of His Excellency the Minister of Information and Culture, Chairman of the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Literature, Mr. Abdul Rahman Badah Al-Mutairi, and the leaders and employees of the Council to the families and lovers of the deceased over this tragedy.”

In the early 1980s, most computers were designed exclusively for English speakers, presenting a significant barrier for those who spoke other languages. Al-Sharekh saw this as a challenge and dedicated himself to finding a solution.

After years of research and development, he created the first Arabic-language interface for computers.

 

 

In 1980, he founded Al-Alamiah Group with its headquarters in Kuwait and established Sakhr Software Company in 1982, which emerged as a leader in research and development in Arabic-language processing.

Al-Sharekh’s company has gained several patents related to the use of Arabic in computers. The SSC is the only company in the Middle East North Africa region to hold three US patents in this field.

The company has developed several groundbreaking commercial products and solutions known for their accuracy and performance, including Arabic-to-English machine translation, and optical character recognition for languages utilizing Arabic scripts.

In 1986, the company became Microsoft’s Arabic-language localization services provider.

Al-Sharekh’s work not only facilitated communication and collaboration in the Arab world but also inspired a new generation of technologists to push the boundaries of linguistic diversity in technology.

This achievement marked a significant milestone in the history of technology, as it opened up new possibilities for Arabic speakers to engage with computers and access information in their preferred language.

Before the SSC, Al-Sharekh served as the deputy director-general for the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

He was also the representative for Kuwait and the Arab Group at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington, D.C.

Al-Sharekh co-founded — and chaired the board of directors — of the Industrial Bank of Kuwait, and also served as vice chairman of the Association of Arab Economists.

Al-Sharekh received numerous accolades for his work throughout his career.

In 2021, he was awarded the prestigious King Faisal International Prize, which recognizes outstanding service to Islam, Islamic studies, Arabic language and literature, medicine and science.

Al-Sharekh won the State Prize in 2018 from the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters in Kuwait; and received the World Summit Awards and the E-Inclusion Award in 2007.

In 2002, he won Arabian Business’ E-Visionary of the Year award, and in 1998 he received “The Best Products” award at Comdex’s exhibition.

Al-Sharekh holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Cairo University in Egypt. He earned his master’s degree in development economics from Williams College in the US.

His work in the field of technology and linguistics has had a lasting impact in the world of digital communication.

Al-Sharekh’s dedication to bridging the gap between different languages and cultures has paved the way for greater inclusivity in the digital age.

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