If you want to remember one thing from my presentation today, consider the following:There are no language barriers, only language service and language technology barriers. Language enables us to express our view of the world, preserve our linguistic and cultural identity. Language diversity is as important as bio-diversity. Africa is the world’s most linguistically diverse region of the world. It is time to act for Africa, it is time to allow her people to speak their languages in the knowledge and information economy, and it is time for her to share with the rest of the world its immense cultural and linguistic richness!My name is Reinhard Schaler and I am the Director of the Localisation Research Centre at the University of Limerick in Ireland and Principal Researcher in the Centre for Next Generation Localisation. For many years we have been working with the world’s largest digital content publishers to make their content available and accessible across languages.
The New York Times recently reported on its front page on a journal article published in the world's leading science journal.A researcher analyzing the sounds in languages spoken around the world has detected an ancient signal that points to southern Africa as the place where modern human language originated.Language is at least 50,000 years old, the date that modern humans dispersed from Africa, and some experts say it is at least 100,000 years old. Dr. Atkinson, if his work is correct, is picking up a distant echo from this far back in time.Dr Mark Pagel, a biologist at the University of Reading in England who advised Dr. Atkinsonsees language as central to human expansion across the globe.“Language was our secret weapon, and as soon we got language we became a really dangerous species,” he said.No doubt, language - and local languages - are important. They define who we are. They are central to human development.Phonetic Clues Hint Language Is Africa-BornBy NICHOLAS WADEPublished: April 14, 2011http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/science/15language.html?scp=1&sq=ancient%20clicks%20hint%20language&st=cseScience 15 April 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6027 pp. 346-349 DOI: 10.1126/science.1199295http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6027/346.abstract
Adel El Zaim of the IDRC wrote on “Language, Money and the Information Society” in a study on African Language Computing published by his organization. In it, El Zaim advocates the role of translation in socioeconomic development. His assumption is that language no longer just serves as a means of communication but also has acquired a strong socio-economic role. While money provides access to goods, languages provides access to knowledge and information necessary for survival in the digital information age.
So far, the digital content industry has been serving 1 billion people. These are the people living in rich countries able to pay for products and services that allow them easy access to digital networks, and to linguistically and culturally adapted content. The challenge today is how to serve the next one, two or many billion people!While both, access to networks and devices, as well as to content in your language, are necessary pre-requisites for the creation of the equal and inclusive information society, I will focus on just one of these aspects, that of local language support for the remainder of my contribution.
There are two reasons why translation and localisation services and technologies are important.The first reason is that they facilitate more than 60% of the revenues of multinational digital content publishers. By 2013, translation and localisation services will be worth US$25 billion. It is a huge industry, delivering content in all “rich” languages. But it is an industry that to-date is only marginally involved in developing innovative solutions for under-served languages, thus ignoring the needs of - and the enormous economic potential involved in serving the people that do not speak the language of the economically rich regions of the world.
And here is an exampleof the power of the translation and localisation service industry.Through a targeted inward investment policy, the Irish Government managed to attract many of the very large multinational digital content publishers to Ireland. These include Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Symantec, Google, eBay, Facebook and many others.Because of the presence of these large clients, many of the world’s largest service providers also established a presence in Ireland – making the country at some stage the world’s largest exporter of software, ahead of the USA.As the industry developed, so did the Government’s policies. Through the Science Foundation Ireland, the Government is now, together with industry, co-financing the world’s largest research project on localisation, the Centre for Next Generation Localisation.
While the fact that localisation hasa considerable economic impact is important, there is a second reason why localisation is important.It ensures, together with access to networks and devices, equal access to the digital world to citizens and delivers a fundamental human right to them: that of access to knowledge and information in their language.Access to knowledge and information in my language is not just a factor in economic calculations or a "nice-to-have"; it can make the difference between being free or being behind bars; between being rich or being poor; between being healthy or being sick– ultimately, it can make the difference between life and death. According to HIFA2015, tens of thousands of people die every day, not because they don’t have access to clean water, food or medicine, but because they do not have access to information.Access to information is equally important as having access to clean water and food.This human right has long been recognised by countries that have established a number or official languages; or countries that give citizens a right to receive information in their languages. The important role played by language and culture for the social and economic well-being of people has also been recognised in a number of statements issued by the African Union.
And here are some reasons why local language and content support drive development.First of all, and contrary to a myth propagated by some, people speaking local languages do represent the majority of people in many developing countries. In India, for example, only 5% of the population speak English sufficiently well to conduct meaningful business through English.Local language support for rural communities delivers growth, jobs, and economic well-being. Reuters Market Light (RML) delivered crop prices for local markets, localized weather reports, and relevant news using text messages to mobile phones in the local language of the Indian state of Maharashtra, and in the process doubled the farmers’ yearly income <of US$2,000> within months.Theprovision of local content – knowledge of crafts, medicine, traditions, customs etc. – immediately catapults societies into the global knowledge economy. Over the past days, we have heard many examples of how that can work.
It is time to act for Africa and for the citizens of Africa.It is time to develop not just open data repositories, but openlocal language data repositories to bring local languages into the digital world and to allow all citizens equal access to information and knowledge.It is time to support research, training and education initiatives around the provision of local language translation and localisation services, to remove the language service and technology barriers.It is time to take advantage of the opportunities offered by globalisation and to collaborate with partners globally to deliver access to information and knowledge to the citizens of the world – in their language and independent of geographical, social or economic considerations.We can all learn from each other! Let us join hands and deliver meaningful projects demonstrating the value of local language support around the world!
Reinhard UNECA Addis 110504
Localisation as an Industrial Strategy<br />Reinhard Schäler<br />Localisation Research Centre (LRC) - University of Limerick, Ireland<br />www.localisation.ie<br />Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL)<br />www.cngl.ie<br />
N<br />15 April 2011<br />“Ancient Clicks hint Language is Africa-born”<br />
Agreement<br />We have moved from the industrial to the information age<br />Cash wasthe main currency of the industrial age<br />Knowledge isthat of the information age<br />Access to information crucial for growth & survival<br />
Challenge<br />How to provide<br />equal & inclusive access for all<br />New and innovative solutions are required<br />Infrastructurenetworks and devices<br />Language local language support<br />
Important I<br />60% of revenue of multinationals is so-called xeno-revenue<br />US$25 billion = translation & localisation services<br />Multinationals work in all “rich” languages<br />Development of innovative solutions for others<br />
Fact<br />Ireland became the world’s largest exporter of software<br />Seven out of ten largest digital publishers<br />Significant government incentives for industries<br />World’s largest research iniatitve (€30m)<br />
Important II<br />Access to knowledge and information is a basic human right<br />Official languages: e.g. India: 23, EU: 23, SA: 11<br />Language Rights: e.g. USA<br />Recognized by African Union<br />
Fact<br />Local language & content drive development<br />Local language speakers are the majority<br />Local language support delivers growth<br />Local content contributes to knowledge society<br />
Act4Africa<br />Local Language & Localisation Service Industry<br />Local language resources and support<br />Research, tranining and education<br />Global collaboration & project delivery<br />
AGIS ‘11<br />Action for Global Information Sharing<br />1-2 December 2011<br />Addis Ababa, UN Conference Centre<br />Organized by UNECA, LRC, CDAC<br />Suported by CNGL, Isoc, TRF, Anloc<br />