Concept of Linguistic Diversity on the Internet

There is a growing concern that in the efforts to bridge the digital divide, hundreds of local languages may be side-stepped, albeit unintentionally. It is therefore of utmost relevance the setting up of a technological and policy environment aiming at promotion, development and availability of tools for facilitating the digital inclusion of as many languages as possible.

Hence, the importance attached to linguistic diversity and local content as part of Action Line C8 of the WSIS Action Plan for which UNESCO has the responsibility of coordination.

The issue of language diversity on the Internet proves to be central to the debate on the Information Society in multiple dimensions, such as:

  • access to quality education in mother language,
  • optimization of investments in education and fight against illiteracy,
  • preservation and dissemination of knowledge,
  • access and exchange of information,
  • digital libraries and cultural diversity.

At first glance, the question seems to revolve around the empowerment and participation of communities using the Internet and digital objects. Aiming to contribute to better understanding and monitoring language diversity in cyberspace, two major initiatives have been recently launched:

  • elaboration of a worldwide report on the implementation of the “Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace” (to be presented at the 34th session of the General Conference in 2007), and
  • publication of a study on “Measuring Linguistic Diversity on the Internet”, edited by UNESCO Institute of Statistics, on which this In Focus is based.
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