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WebWorld

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Communication and Information Activities

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Initiative B@bel

Giving access to information by promoting linguistic and cultural diversity in Cyberspace

In today’s emerging knowledge society, information is one of the principal commodities driving the various spheres of human development (social, economic, political, etc). Thus the ability of individuals and groups to participate and influence knowledge/information on global information networks, such as the Internet, will increasingly dictate their ability to direct their participation in society and ultimately their quality of life.
Language, our primary means for communication, is clearly crucial to our participation in today's society where information is a key resource for decision making, empowerment, social participation and human development.

But languages are more than communication tools, they are vehicles of value systems, cultural expressions, an important factor in the identity of groups and individuals. Language diversity is an essential part of the living heritage of humanity that must be nurtured and promoted.

At present about 90% of Internet content is available in approximately 12 languages. This effectively excludes speakers of the world’s other 6000 or so languages who do not understand one of these “major global” languages from participating in this information flow. As commercial interest have largely driven the creation of content development and information exchange tools and systems, thousands of languages, viewed as commercially non-viable have no standardized representation in the electronic environment thus excluding them or severely limiting their usage in this environment. In addition 1/5 of the world’s language exist only in oral form.

As a result of these factors and other social and economic pressures many languages are dying and with them the rich body of historical, scientific, cultural knowledge they possess is being lost. According to Andrew Dalby’s recent publication, Language in Danger: how language loss threatens our future,“the world loses a language every two weeks”. Unchecked this will serve to exacerbate existing inequalities and create new social conflicts and divides.


These activities carried out in collaboration with partners, seek to:
  • Promote the use of multilingualism on the Internet with a view to make access to its contents and services more equitable for its users worldwide, including developing countries and countries in transition.

  • Support linguistic and cultural diversity, prevent language segregation and protect languages in danger of disappearance through the application of ICTs.

  • Support pilot projects and the development of multilingual content management tools and resources.