Essential steps to ensure that a language, that is not yet represented on the Internet, is included in cyberspace, were identified at the conference on “Multilingualism for Cultural Diversity and Participation of All in Cyberspace" that UNESCO and partners organized in Mali’s capital Bamako last week.
The over 130 participants from 25 countries concluded that there is a need for written national language policies that must address the issue of language in cyberspace. They stressed that standards are crucial to create, access, disseminate and preserve multilingual content in cyberspace, particularly in endangered and lesser-spoken languages.
Participants also pointed out that local content is critical to foster a multilingual cyberspace and to ensure that members of all communities can share in the benefits of cyberspace. In this context , the role of libraries and archives to sustain linguistic diversity should be fostered, for example through promoting reading and making content in local languages available, both in analogue and in digitized form.
The role of the media, particularly local and community radios and emerging web media, should be strengthened to foster language diversity, especially using endangered and lesser spoken languages, particularly those with predominantly oral traditions. Although the meeting focused on “cyberspace” it was noted that the media has a vital role to play, whether in localizing terminology or in building capacities that are relevant to the ability to participate in the digital world.
Measuring and monitoring multilingualism in cyberspace are crucial to the development of languages policies and analyzing their impacts. However, the present statistical services including data collection and analysis are insufficient.
The Conference, that was recognized as one of the thematic meetings of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), was organized by UNESCO, together with the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) and the Agence intergouvernementale de la francophonie (AIF), in cooperation with the Government of Mali.
UNESCO will submit the conclusion of the conference to the World Summit oin the Information Society.