LinguisticsAndAfricanUniversitiesRoleInICT4D

(from the list of my contributions to the Bantu-L list; recovered from own files or crossposts)


Linguistics & African universities' role in "ICT4D"
Fri, 3 Sep 2004

The forwarded announcement below concerning a conference at Cornell U. on enhancing the role of African universities in ICT for development* does not mention linguistics but I pass it on to Bantu-L in order to bring up what I think is an important issue: Participation by the (broad) field of research on and teaching of African languages and linguistics in the evolution of ICT in Africa.

The conference in question deals with an interesting subject that itself merits greater attention - that of African universities' contributions to making ICT work for the needs and aspirations of African people, and how to strengthen their institutional capacities to so do. ICT projects for development until now seem to have revolved mainly around traditional development partnerships (foreign donors, national governments, international NGOs, and to varying degrees, local NGOs). As far as I'm aware, universities, struggling with their own issues including basic connectivity, have been on the sidelines. Bringing them more into the process of designing, implementing, and evaluating ICT applications to development problems in the countries and communities they serve is only logical.

In looking at this subject I can't help but think about another structural deficiency in the way ICT has been approached in Africa, and that is the apparent low degree of interaction between linguists and African language experts on one hand, and ICT technicians and project managers on the other. It is a situation that if allowed to continue would certainly handicap the development of African language computing and internet. Fortunately in some areas this divide is being closed with some projects resulting. But much more needs to be done.

The topic addressed by the conference at Cornell would seem to provide an ideal entry point for linguists and language and literacy specialists at African universities to influence the development of ICT for the multilingual societies of their countries. If universities on the continent do indeed begin to do more relating to ICT applications, shouldn't linguistics and language departments be full partners in the process? But without a motivation to do this on both sides - the specialists in African languages and linguistics, and the specialists in the various disciplines concerned with development to communicate - the latter will likely proceed without the former in crafting ICT strategies that give insufficient attention to Africa's languages, with all that that implies for the successful use of the technology for the people.

The reason I address this list is to suggest that it may be an optimal time for linguists to insist on a place at the table, as it were. Few others (unfortunately) will push for you and no one else can fully take your place.

I did bring the matter up with the conference organizers and received a brief positive reply about including the language dimension in the program.

Don Osborn Bisharat.net

  • (the current acronym ICT4D is not one used by Cornell)
 ----- Forwarded message from Royal Colle <rdc4@xxxxxxx.xxx> ----- 
Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2004 14:30:50 -0400
From: Royal Colle <rdc4@xxxxxxx.xxx>
Reply-To: The Digital Divide Network discussion group
<digitaldivide@milhouse.edc.org>
Subject: [DDN] African ICT Conference
To: digitaldivide@milhouse.edc.org

Apologies for any duplicate posting.

The Institute for African Development at Cornell University will host a conference at Ithaca, New York on November 19-20 titled BUILDING THE ICT CAPACITY OF AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES FOR PROMOTING DEVELOPMENT.

The objective of this conference is to generate practical approaches to building the capacity of universities in third world nations to apply information and communication technologies (ICTs) toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals and other development priorities. The conference will focus on African universities and their potential for using ICTs to support improvements in the health, education, and economic welfare of their people. Registration is invited but no papers are solicited. For information contact Jackie Sayegh jsb25@xxxxxxx.xxx.

R D Colle
Cornell University

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 - ----- End forwarded message -----

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Bantu-L

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