Languages on the Internet

© UNESCO/Leaflet of UNESCO's Babel Initiative

By supporting the development of multilingual cyberspace, UNESCO promotes wider and more equitable access to information, offering, at the same time, possibilities to preserve endangered languages through ICT.

Increasingly, information and knowledge are becoming key elements of wealth creation, social transformation and human development. Language is the primary vector for communicating knowledge and traditions. The opportunity to use your own language on global information networks determines the extent to which you can participate in emerging knowledge societies.

However, thousands of languages worldwide are absent from Internet and there are no tools for creating or translating information into these excluded tongues. The way how one accesses websites through domain names is also principally limited to the use of Latin script.

Huge sections of the world’s population are thus constrained in enjoying the full benefits of technological advances and in obtaining information essential to their wellbeing and development. Unattended, this problem can lead to a loss of cultural diversity on information networks and to a widening of existing socio-economic inequalities.

Publications

Securing a place for a language in cyberspace
Marcel Diki-Kidiri; 2007; 79 p.
In this publication, the author tries to explain how to ensure that a language which is poorly endowed in linguistic and/or information technology resources, not to mention human resources, may find its proper place in cyberspace and be active there. >> More

Cultural and linguistic diversity in the information society
2003; 68 p.
Cultural diversity is seen as part of humanity's common heritage, which is as essential for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. It should, therefore, be protected for the benefit of both present and future generations and be considered as a basic human right. >> More

Measuring linguistic diversity on the Internet
Paolillo, John; Pimienta, Daniel; Prado, Daniel; 2005; 109 p.
This publication demonstrates that there are many technical problems in calculating language diversity on the Internet. Care has to be taken to ensure that the items searched for in different languages are equivalent in their value, meaning and usage. >> More

Events

IGF 2008: Reaching the Next Billion: Multilingualism
3-6 December 2008; Hyderabad, India
The power of the Internet is multiplied when people are able to access and use content in their local languages, agreed a group of experts who opened the 2008 Internet Governance Forum in a session on Reaching the Next Billion: Multilingualism. >> More

International Conference on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace
2-4 July 2008; Yakutsk, Russian Federation
A significant contribution to the International Year of Languages, the Conference addressed political, cultural, social, ethical and technical aspects of linguistic and cultural diversity in cyberspace. Special attention was paid to the role of UNESCO in safeguarding the diversity of languages on the Internet. >> More

ICANN’s 32nd International Public Meeting
Paris, France; 22-26 June 2008
ICANN's Board of Directors approved the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names in the top level of Internet addresses. This decision will expand the world’s Domain Name System and to accommodate Country Code Top Level Domain Names in scripts other than Latin. >> More

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