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To promote presence of African languages in cyberspace UNESCO continues support for N’ko project

03-11-2005 (Paris)
UNESCO continues its support for a project enabling African languages written in N’ko, an alphabet developed in 1949, to be present in cyberspace through the development of fonts for the N’ko script and their use in hard and software.
Carried out in partnership with the Scripts Encoding Initiative of the University of California at Berkeley, the present project phase aims at facilitating the presence of languages based in N’ko scripts (Malinke, Bambara, Dyula) in the digital world though the availability of N’ko-compatible software and hardware and appropriate standards. An earlier project phase consisted in the development of a Unicode standard for N’ko to the international character encoding standards and ISO/IEC 10646.

The beneficiary community for this project is in the range of 20 millions of speakers of Manden languages Malinke, Bambara and Dyula in West Africa, living in Mali, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

“The project is an example of best practices for ensuring the presence of endangered languages up to now absent from the cyberspace”, says Claudio Menezes who manages the project at UNESCO.

Once completed the current phase of the project, it will be possible to accurately described the African languages and their dialects in the digital world and to represent and circulate digital objects (such as text and images) linked to these languages in the Internet .This will facilitate, for example, the production of newspapers, magazines, school texts and other digital objects in N’ko. A spin off of the project is also a larger use of software and hardware in local languages by Community Multimedia Centers and by children in schools

The concepts developed in this project can be adapted to non-Latin scripts based languages existing in other continents.

Linguistic and cultural diversity is a key principle of knowledge societies, according to UNESCO. In this context, the presence in cyberspace of African languages is a fundamental step for the promotion of local contents in the cyberspace.
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