The language of the Internet and the digital divide

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The language of the Internet and the digital divide

People are less attracted to languages ​​that are not present on the Internet. This creates ‘digital language death’

What language does the Internet speak? The crux of the question is in what language the materials on the Internet are available.

Have all the spoken and written languages ​​of the world found a place on the Internet, a network of devices such as computers?

According to the ethnolog published annually by SIL International, a non-profit organization that studies language studies, there are now about 7,100 languages ​​in the world.
Of these, 42 percent are at risk of extinction (less than a thousand users), while more than half of the world’s population speaks only 23 languages.

Now let’s talk about the languages ​​available on the Internet. Of course, the first language used on the Internet was English. The share of the English language, which accounted for 80 percent of the content available on the Internet until the early 1990’s, has dropped to about 25 percent by 2020.

The share of the English language, which accounted for 80 percent of the content available on the Internet until the early 1990’s, has dropped to about 25 percent by 2020.

As the share of English decreases, the dominance of languages ​​like Chinese, Spanish, Arabic has increased. Ten languages ​​account for more than 75 percent of Internet content, according to Internet World Statistics 2020.

Thus, out of 7,100 languages ​​in the world, only about 500 languages, or 7 percent of the total languages, have found a place on the Internet. So far, 321 languages ​​are available on Wikipedia, 111 on Facebook, 109 on Google Translate and 2,400 on Twitter.

Fear of digital language death

Currently, the world as a whole shows that one language is on the verge of extinction every 14 days. There is growing concern that the Internet, which has become an integral part of human life, is accelerating.

Ninety-three percent of the world’s languages ​​do not have an offline presence. On the other hand, about 3,000 of the world’s languages ​​do not have a script, so it is unlikely that these languages ​​will find a place on the Internet.

Languages ​​that do not exist on the Internet or that cannot be used on the Internet are becoming less and less attractive to people. Which has been dubbed ‘Digital Language Death’.

As the pace of ‘digital language death’ accelerates, the online world is sure to move forward alone, overshadowing the diverse language culture. Only by including as many languages ​​as possible on the Internet and moving forward on the path of linguistic inclusion can everyone’s share be maintained on the Internet.

Now the way: local content

Digital Divide is a term used to describe the differences between those who have succeeded in establishing access to the Internet and those who have been left out of the Internet due to geographical remoteness, linguistic complexity, low literacy, and low income.

The digital divide has been a challenge to move forward on the path of building a knowledge-based society by establishing universal access to information and strengthening the socio-economic status of the common man through access to the Internet. Especially people in developing and underdeveloped countries are not able to take full advantage of the ICT ecosystem due to lack of internet content (local content) in the local language.

Due to this, the use of internet is being used only as a means to connect with each other on social media. If Internet content can be produced and distributed in the local language, on the one hand, access to the Internet will expand and the gap of digital divide will be narrowed.

However, the use of the Internet is not limited to social media, but it also helps to move in the direction of socio-economic empowerment.

When it comes to the Internet, everyone prioritizes access to Internet infrastructure, but only by focusing on access to infrastructure as well as local content, digitization of services, digital literacy in the local language can a strong and fruitful digital ecosystem be built.

Two projects are being carried out through the Telecommunication Authority of Nepal by mobilizing the Rural Telecommunication Development Fund for easy access to internet infrastructure.

The first is the Broadband Access Network project and the second is the construction of the Information Highway. Work has been completed in fourteen packages (fifty five districts) under the Broadband Access Network Project to expand internet service to all local body offices, ward offices, health posts, and secondary schools in 74 districts (excluding Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur) divided into eighteen packages. The rest of the package is being worked on.

Similarly, the information highway (backbone network) project from Chiyobhanjyang in East Taplejung to Jhulaghat in West Darchula is being carried out on the basis of Mid-Hill Highway to facilitate internet service providers in expanding their network and minimizing double investment in infrastructure.

It will be easier to move forward on the path of a knowledge-based society envisioned by the Government of Nepal only if the Internet can be used as a tool to broaden the scope of knowledge and socio-economics, not just in the exchange of information.

Similarly, the project of constructing information technology laboratories in about one thousand schools across the country through the Telecommunication Authority is in the final stage. Despite the geographical remoteness, the above-mentioned projects are sure to facilitate remote internet access. Now local bodies need to focus on how to make the most of these infrastructures.

For this, digitization of services, digital literacy and production and distribution of internet content in local language are the major conditions. For example, if schools do not have access to the Internet but curriculum is appropriate, we will not be able to provide teaching materials in the local language, and as long as we are forced to rely on foreign materials, it will not bring about the desired change in educational quality.

Last year, the Ministry of Education developed some of these Internet content, which is a positive thing. By producing such digital educational materials in collaboration with local bodies and hosting them on local servers, a positive change can be brought in the quality of education and on the other hand, the international bandwidth consumption will also be reduced.

Similarly, most of the local bodies have now launched their own websites. Now, the work of such websites will not be limited to the flow of public information and the public services that need to be distributed to the citizens will be digitized and services will also be provided through the website / app.

In the case of Nepal, information technology has not been given priority in the annual budget of local bodies so far. This requires a complete breakdown of order and if every local government can move forward by allocating a portion of its total budget for digital transformation, it will not only take advantage of the internet infrastructure but also reduce the digital divide.

In the case of Nepal, information technology has not been given priority in the annual budget of local bodies so far.

Not only this, in a multilingual and multicultural country like Nepal, keeping in view the cultural and linguistic community, if appropriate internet content can be produced and distributed in the same language to support their socio-economic standard of living, the language can survive and bring positive change in the overall standard of living.

It will be easier to move forward on the path of a knowledge-based society envisioned by the Government of Nepal only if the Internet can be used as a tool to broaden the scope of knowledge and socio-economics, not just in the exchange of information.

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Rabins Sharma Lamichhane

Rabins Sharma Lamichhane is the owner of RabinsXP who is constantly working for increasing the Internet of Things (IoT) in Nepal. He also builds android apps and crafts beautiful websites. He is also working with various social services. The main aim of Lamichhane is to digitally empower the citizens of Nepal and make the world spiritually sound better both in terms of technology and personal development. Rabins is also the first initiator of Digital Nepal.

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