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African Languages and Information and Communication Technologies: Literacy, Access, and the Future
Donald Z. Osborn
86-93 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


There has been significant focus on the technical dimension of the "digital divide" in Africa but much less on linguistic aspects. However, the latter have major implications both for access to the technology, since many Africans do not speak the languages that dominate in information and communication technologies (ICT), and for the future of African languages themselves, since there is a question as to how well languages not used in ICT will survive in the "information society." This paper surveys the current African language and ICT situation drawing on the author's experience working on these issues. It considers impediments to greater African language use in ICT on the technical and sociolinguistic levels, as well as institutional and policy issues. These factors include: orthographies; lack of literacy in the languages; low status of the languages relative to official languages (also dominant in ICT); insufficient interaction of linguists and computer technicians; and low donor interest. The paper also highlights initiatives and trends tending to favor greater African language use on computers and the internet.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages and Linguistics in Broad Perspectives
edited by John Mugane, John P. Hutchison, and Dee A. Worman
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00