On the larger question of "the way forward in using ICTs for national
development planning" I'd suggest serious attention to the issues of
localization and multilingual computing.
It is striking that in Africa - multilingual as it is - discussions of ICT
for development generally pay little attention to how one might optimally
adapt the technology and the content to national linguistic realities. There
are explanations for this, from the focus on internet for tapping
international markets and knowledge, to the roles of English / French /
Portuguese as official languages, to attitudes about language (status of
European vs. African languages, the notion that African langauges are not
adapted to technology), to issues relating to standardization (orthographies
may not be widely taught or even formalized, etc.). However, explicit
attention to potential uses of the first languages and local lingua francas
in ICTs could lead to various benefits: some in areas that traditional ICT
(& ICT4D) policy focus on (such as enhancing user skills in ICTs; increasing
relevant web content), and some in other areas important to development that
fall outside the usual ICT discussions (language development, links with
indigenous knowledge, new kinds of creativity).
Discussions of localization and multilingual computing in the context of
considering ICTs for national development planning could be built around
several themes, such as:
1) Dialogue between ICT policy and language policy processes.
There is apparently little overlap between ICT policy and language policy
in most countries of Africa, hence little institutional support for
discussion of "localization policy" or "local language computing policy."
This structural divide often goes all the way down to the level of computer
technicians and linguists. Bringing together discussions of language policy
& planning, and education policy as regards languages on the one hand, and
ICT policy as concerns expansion of use of the technologies annd their
contribution on the other, could yield some new insights and foster
collaborations among efforts to promote ICT4D and devvelop languages.
2) Approaching localization as a way of adding value to the impact and
potential of ICT for national development.
Localization is not about replacing one language with another, of course,
but rather adding diverse language capacities and content to computer
systems and the way we use them. ICT is in many ways inherently additive or
positive sum - adding one more option in terms of language interface or
content need not take away from another, but add to what the potential users
can get out of ICT and use ICT for. In a multilingual context, promoting
ways of enhancing language capacities of computer systems (localizing
software, developing tools to make that possible) and increasing diverse
language content are inexpensive ways of giving ICT more dimensions, (soft)
access points, and meaning - hence value.
3) Leveraging the benefits of internationalization of ICT for Africa.
A lot of work has been going into making computer systems and software
more able to handle divere languages and scripts: Unicode, tools to develop
language resources (from keyboards to corpora), open-source opportunities
for localization, research on advanced applications (such as computer
assisted translation), etc. Multilingual Africa stands to benefit a lot from
these advances (and contribute in turn to them), but has not, on official
levels, been systematically seeking to either take advantage of the
opportunities or place itself in a position to partcipate more fully in the
future (e.g., training of computer technicians in aspects of language
technologies). There are some initiatives on NGO, academic, or project
levels, but official support has in most countries been minimal. This is an
area that ICT policy can address.
Anyway these are some thoughts that I hope are of some use. As always any
feedback is welcome.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Richard Labelle
> Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2007 8:52 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Ghana and other open access network model and SAT3
> Dear all,
> We are presently advising the government of a West African country on
> the way forward in using ICTs for national development planning and
> especially in taking advantage of the SAT 3 marine fiber connection.
> We would be very interested in learning more about the way that Ghana
> and other countries in West Africa especially have approached the
> management and use of this resource. The concept of an open access
> network management mode is of great interest and we understand that
> is being considered in Ghana and possibly elsewhere among SAT3
> If you could point me in the right direction to help us learn more
> these and related developments, this would be most appreciated.
> With best regards,
> Richard Labelle
> Richard Labelle
> The Aylmer Group
> CANADA J9H 5Z6