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Linguistic diversity and multilingualism on Internet

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Increasingly, information and knowledge are key determinants of wealth creation, social transformation and human development. Language is a primary vector for communicating information and knowledge, thus the opportunity to use one’s language on the Internet will determine the extent to which one can participate in emerging knowledge societies.

The beginning of the Internet has brought about diverse opportunities for sharing information and knowledge in various languages. Today, anyone in principle can produce content, share it with the rest of the world and receive feedback. In principle, the Internet is open to all languages of the world when certain technical conditions are met, and when the necessary human and financial resources are in place.

However, many languages are not present on the Internet. There is a vast linguistic divide, which exists in cyberspace today and this will only exacerbate the digital divide. Everyone therefore should have access to the multilingual Internet. Nations, communities and individuals without access to the Internet and its resources will certainly be marginalized with limited access to information and knowledge, which are critical elements of sustainable development. Speakers of non-dominant languages need to be able to express themselves in culturally meaningful ways, create their own cultural content in local languages and share through cyberspace. The digital divide has two important aspects: firstly, everyone should have access to the Internet, and secondly, access to quality content created not only at international or regional level, but locally and in local languages. The Internet is multilingual and culturally diverse where every culture and language has its own space.

UNESCO is convinced that cultural diversity and multilingualism on the Internet have a key role to play in fostering pluralistic, equitable, open and inclusive knowledge societies. UNESCO encourages its Member States to develop comprehensive language-related policies, to allocate resources and use appropriate tools in order to promote and facilitate linguistic diversity and multilingualism, including the Internet and media. In this regard, the Organization supports the inclusion of new languages in the digital world, the creation and dissemination of content in local languages on the Internet and mass communication channels, and encourages multilingual access to digital resources in the cyberspace.

The Launch Ceremony of Joint Partnership “World Atlas of Languages” and The Roundtable Discussion “Language matters for development”

8 July 2016 in Beijing, People’s Republic of China

UNESCO and Talkmate host an official launch event to celebrate the beginning of a new and exciting partnership on the development of the World Atlas of Languages. The joint partnership aims at developing innovative and scalable ICT-supported models to access data on linguistic diversity around the world, encourage collaboration among different stakeholders and raise awareness on the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism for sustainable and inclusive development.

Building on the existing UNESCO’s Atlas of Languages in Danger, a new online collaborative platform “World Atlas of Languages” will provide a wide range of technical and collaborative facilities to all stakeholders to access and share own data on linguistic diversity, information about good practices, existing language teaching and learning solutions, and host user-generated content.

UNESCO and Talkmate launch event brings together a number of leading scientists, governmental officials, public and private organizations, UN organizations, as well as civil society to raise awareness of all stakeholders on the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism for sustainable and inclusive development. Accordingly, the thematic roundtable on “Language matters for development” assesses the current situation of linguistic diversity, identify existing challenges and new opportunities arising from scientific and technological development, and exchange the scientific information among higher educational institutions, national public institutions on language linguistic diversity, and application of languages in different domains, as well as form a new institutional network working on language issues.  

Multilingualism in Cyberspace: Indigenous Languages for Empowerment

27-28 November 2015
San José, Costa Rica

The “Multilingualism in Cyberspace: Indigenous Languages for Empowerment” International Conference seeks to support sustainable processes of awareness raising about the need for multilingualism in Cyberspace, understanding access to information as a Human Right for indigenous groups, knowledge sharing of best practices for indigenous languages in cyberspace and capacity building for communities especially with endangered languages.

This regional conference for Central America underlines the fact that many Indigenous languages are in danger. It will strengthen the right for access to

information in cyberspace for indigenous communities and will stimulate communities of indigenous languages in danger to work on their presence in Internet with linguistic support for digital documentation of oral traditions.

As an objective of the conference, a plan of action will be elaborated to address the above terms also in support of availability of hardware and software solutions to facilitate man-machine-interaction in different linguistic and cultural settings, facilitating the use of appropriate keyboards, translation with vocabulary lists and spelling check, voice recognition, etc.
>> Concept Paper and Conference Agenda

>> Report of the Conference (English - Spanish)


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