(from the list of my contributions to the Africa_web_content_owner (AWCO) list; source: AWCO archives)
[africa_web_content_owner] 3 Months' Summary (personal clarification)
Feb 8, 2000
Dear Mike, In your helpful resume of discussion on this AWCO list, you summarized some items I brought up, but in reading them I realize that I did not express myself with sufficient clarity. Here is the excerpt and my clarifications follow:
>It was also suggested that an exploration of the use of African
>languages would help to increase cultural diversity on the web. Donald Z
>Osborn mentioned that some of the problems associated with the use of
>African languages on the net are mainly 'political and not technical'.
>Use of indigenous languages for email correspondence is now a norm among
>many Africans. The task of coding bits and bytes in indigenous languages
>may however prove to be too costly an exercise.
1. Some, not many, use indigenous African languages in e-mail. I have learned second hand for instance, that this is the case among a number of Somalis. In any event there is a Somali language wordprocessor and spell-checker, which presumably is part of the same phenomenon.
2. The task of coding African languages, which in most cases involves how to handle specialized characters used to extend the traditional Latin (& ASCII) alphabet, will certainly involve some effort - and require standardization - but will not be "too costly an exercise." It is a lot easier than what is currently being done with Indian languages (or in the case of languages using the Amharic script, Vai, or [dare I mention it?] Nko, comparable). If anyone is still not convinced, think of what has had to go into getting Chinese characters on the web! In fact, there are already efforts and, if I understand correctly, with Unicode standards it will be done. Remember how fast this technology is racing ahead - the main problem seems to be getting certain technical issues "on board": hence certain scripts like Vai and Nko which have small constituencies and few if any computer-connected advocates are still practically nowhere in on the cyber-agenda while African languages in extended Latin scripts WILL be on computer screens before too long - Ni Ala sonna!
Donald Zhang Osborn, Ph.D. osborndo@...
consultant @ NRMP-Assistant-Mali@...
ANRM, IK, & ICT in the vernacular bisharat@...
"A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing
the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions,
and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity."
Shoghi Effendi, 1936.
"The appropriate technology for the developing
third world is electronic digital technology."
Arthur C. Clarke, 1980.
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