« Digital Review of the Asia Pacific | トップページ | チュニジアの公衆電話 »

2005.11.18

没原稿

直前のエントリーで紹介したDigital Reviewの出版記念パネルの発表には、実は裏バージョンがありました。裏バージョンというか、没原稿が。そのまま眠らせるのもなんなので、これもやっぱりここに貼り付けときます。英語が変なところもあるけど、そのままで。

Building More Inclusive Information Societies in the Asia Pacific Keisuke Kamimura Center for Global Communications

What do we need to make information societies more inclusive? It is language that still makes a key to broaden the reach of information societies.

Let me begin with some historical analysis.

Language has been an important issue since the very beginning of the Internet, or information communications technology (ICT) in general. English has long been favoured in the uses and applications of ICT over other languages. If you look at the statistics on Internet users in the early 1990s, English speakers comprised of the majority of them. This is because the US and other English-speaking countries played major roles in science and technology, market was out there for them, and English has been the language of wider communications for decades.

Around the year 2000, things began to change. More languages have come to gain presence on the Internet. According to a recent estimate, English speakers are declining in ratio and they account for only a quarter of the Internet population today. A group of researchers recently reported that the languages of approximately 84 percent of the world population could be covered be computer operating system. Now, language does not seem to be a barrier any more in using the Internet and other forms of ICT.

Is this true?

My answer is 'no', or 'not yet'. I would like to add one more perspective to show it is still a long way to go.

For one thing, even though English may only account for a quarter of the Internet population and other languages gained more presence, there remains the yet-uncounted majority. For another, a rough calculation shows that 84 percent goes down to some 56 percent if you recount languages based on the criterion whether the user can interact with computer in their own language.

Another issue is the fairness and equity among languages supported by ICT. Today, nearly 50 languages are supported by major commercial computer operating systems. How were these languages selected. Are they selected because they are big languages? Then, why had Hindi and Benali not been supported until recently? You may want to argue their economy is not big enough. However, according to a survey on economic strength of language, Hindi is one of the ten biggest languages, and Bengali is the thirteenth language by the same standard. They are not small at all. Who governs this?

Now, what we need is a change in focus. Language in ICT has tended to be an issue of engineering, but now it is becoming an issue of policy, particularly, language policy. Software development and localisation has tended to be an issue of technology and business, but it turns out it is an outcome of interaction between technology, economics, public policy, and social agreement on what we think we need.

Language is still an issue to build more inclusive information societies in the asia pacific. It is not technology any more, but it is policy and social agreement that we need to make information societies more inclusive.

Thank you very much.

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