Internet access can be matter of life and death: forum

The inability to access to the Internet in one's own language can be life-threatening, a forum at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh heard on Tuesday.

"Lack of access to information is life-threatening, threatens your ability to stay healthy, to access government services," Dwayne Bailey, of the African Network for Localisation (ANLoc), told the Internet governance forum.

Multi-lingualism on the Internet was an imperative that had to be addressed, stressed the official from ANLoc, a project to empower Africans to participate in the digital age.

He gave the example of vital health guidelines that South African authorities post on their websites in English "in the hope that most people will understand."

"There are 2,000 languages spoken by a billion people in Africa. There are 15 languages in Africa that have more than 10 million people each and almost none of those are present in any significant way in the information age," Bailey said.

On Monday, the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) took a significant step towards ending the exclusive use of Latin characters for website addresses' internationalised domain names (IDNs).

Egypt and Russia were among the first to apply to have their country code for top level domains in their own scripts.

But Bailey said that while IDNs were essential in the drive to internationalise the World Wide Web, he stressed they were only one aspect.

"There's the assumption that all languages can be typed," said Bailey, whose organisation has developed keyboards that allow people to type African languages.

"Software is predominantly not available" in many African languages, he said.

Only 100 of the world's 7,000 languages existed in cyberspace, said UNESCO's Abdul Waheed Khan, who illustrated the point of language barriers by starting his speech in Hindi without translation.

"Language is part of identity," said the official from the UN body that deals with education and culture.

"Can you share with a farmer scientific innovation if that information is not available to him or her in the language that they can understand?" Khan asked.

Participants proposed translating and localising content to make it more relevant, making spell-checkers available for different languages.

"There is nothing as negative for a language as seeing it all underlined in red, basically your computer communicating that your language is irrelevant in the computer age," Bailey said.

This year's Internet Governance Forum in Egypt has brought together more than 1,500 representatives of government, advocacy groups, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to discuss the future of the Internet.

The third day of the IGF was focused primarily on providing access to the Internet to millions of people who face constraints of language, connectivity, cost or disability.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc