"UNECA Champions Local Language On Net"

Don Osborn dzo at bisharat.net
Sat Dec 15 07:58:10 UTC 2007

The following item was seen on AllAfrica.com at
http://allafrica.com/stories/200712131227.html .



UNECA Champions Local Language On Net

Highway Africa News Agency (Grahamstown)


13 December 2007

Posted to the web 13 December 2007


David Muwanga


The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) recently launched
the Academic Network of African Researchers on Languages to undertake
research on how "Internet language" can be simplified and translated into
local languages. "We want to link computer sciences closer with languages
with an objective of bridging the language digital divide that does hinder
our local people from using ICTs especially in the use of Internet," said
UNECA's Director of ICT, Science and technology Division Aida Opoku-Mensah.


At the same time, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has
launched a programme to review the national ICT policies of African
countries on how they address the issue of languages. "We would like to see
which country has language in its ICT policy", said IDRC Senior Programme
Specialist Dr. Adel El Zaim. He said it remains the role of African
governments to monitor and implement policies encouraging use of local
language and encourage its application in schools.


"If a government in Africa implements such a programme it would have created
employment for the local software developers, while many local people would
benefit from and understand the local content since it will not be in
foreign languages," he emphasised. He noted that IDRC has set up an ICT
project covering Morroco, Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan but is facing
implementation hiccups due to lack of a single language to be used in the


"In Morocco and Tunisia we had French, while in Sudan, Jordan and Egypt we
found Arabic and English languages being used. We are talking of a knowledge
society and in the end we had to use all the three languages in the network
in order to enable them communicate with the rest of the World,' he said.


Chairman of the advisory committee in ICANN, Mohammed Sharil Tarmizi said
Africa's Internet penetration is only at 3.5 percent.


"We have more than 6800 languages in the world but how many of them are
African and are used on the Internet? African governments should set up
policies that give guidelines on how trhey should get involved in language
issues and commit the telecommunication providers to venture into rural
areas instead of isolating them," he emphasised. He said that out of the
6800 languages that were identified by the United Nations Educational
Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO), 94 percent are spoken by
only 3 percent of the world population.


"In Africa we know there are languages that are not written and with time
they would disappear. But if we use our local content, we would be enabling
our people to create own jobs and products that are relevant for the
emerging people and the emerging market," he said.


Copyright C 2007 Highway Africa News Agency. All rights reserved.


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