WSIS: Mentions of language, linguistic diversity, multilingual & literacy
- FYI... the recent World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva
issued a Declaration and Plan of Action. Out of curiosity I did
quick searches to see what they said about "language," "linguistic
diversity," "multilingual," and "literacy" - from that I compiled the
following list of excerpts. Some of the "literacy" references are
more specifically in the context of ICT literacy; same case
with "education" references which I didn't include as they were
numerous and varied enough to add to the length of what I'm
forwarding without contributing equally to the purpose. To see the
documents in their entirety go to
No particular conclusions other than that 1) basic literacy - which
from the perspective of the WSIS could be considered a "pre-ICT"
capability - could have been more forcefully brought up, and 2) there
is little overlap between multilingual and education or literacy.
It remains to be seen what will become of all this and the follow up
event in Tunis, Nov. 2005.
Others' insights and comments are invited.
Declaration of Principles
Building the Information Society: a global challenge in the new
4) Capacity building
29. Each person should have the opportunity to acquire the
necessary skills and knowledge in order to understand, participate
actively in, and benefit fully from, the Information Society and the
knowledge economy. Literacy and universal primary education are key
factors for building a fully inclusive information society, paying
particular attention to the special needs of girls and women. Given
the wide range of ICT and information specialists required at all
levels, building institutional capacity deserves special attention
31. Continuous and adult education, re-training, life-long
learning, distance-learning and other special services, such as
telemedicine, can make an essential contribution to employability and
help people benefit from the new opportunities offered by ICTs for
traditional jobs, self-employment and new professions. Awareness and
literacy in ICTs are an essential foundation in this regard.
6) Enabling environment
48. The Internet has evolved into a global facility available to
the public and its governance should constitute a core issue of the
Information Society agenda. The international management of the
Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the
full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society
and international organizations. It should ensure an equitable
distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a
stable and secure functioning of the Internet, taking into account
7) ICT applications: benefits in all aspects of life
51. ... Applications should be user-friendly, accessible to all,
affordable, adapted to local needs in languages and cultures, and
support sustainable development. To this effect, local authorities
should play a major role in the provision of ICT services for the
benefit of their populations.
8) Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and
52. Cultural diversity is the common heritage of humankind. The
Information Society should be founded on and stimulate respect for
cultural identity, cultural and linguistic diversity, traditions and
religions, and foster dialogue among cultures and civilizations. The
promotion, affirmation and preservation of diverse cultural
identities and languages as reflected in relevant agreed United
Nations documents including UNESCO's Universal Declaration on
Cultural Diversity, will further enrich the Information Society.
53. The creation, dissemination and preservation of content in
diverse languages and formats must be accorded high priority in
building an inclusive Information Society, paying particular
attention to the diversity of supply of creative work and due
recognition of the rights of authors and artists. It is essential to
promote the production of and accessibility to all content -
educational, scientific, cultural or recreational - in diverse
languages and formats. The development of local content suited to
domestic or regional needs will encourage social and economic
development and will stimulate participation of all stakeholders,
including people living in rural, remote and marginal areas.
12 December 2003
Plan of Action
B. Objectives, goals and targets
6. Based on internationally agreed development goals, including
those in the Millennium Declaration, which are premised on
international cooperation, indicative targets may serve as global
references for improving connectivity and access in the use of ICTs
in promoting the objectives of the Plan of Action, to be achieved by
2015. These targets may be taken into account in the establishment of
the national targets, considering the different national
i) to encourage the development of content and to put in place
technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of
all world languages on the Internet;
C. Action Lines
C2. Information and communication infrastructure: an essential
foundation for the Information Society
9. Infrastructure is central in achieving the goal of digital
inclusion, enabling universal, sustainable, ubiquitous and affordable
access to ICTs by all, taking into account relevant solutions already
in place in developing countries and countries with economies in
transition, to provide sustainable connectivity and access to remote
and marginalized areas at national and regional levels.
g) In order to alleviate the challenges of illiteracy, develop
affordable technologies and non-text based computer interfaces to
facilitate people's access to ICT,
C4. Capacity building
11. Everyone should have the necessary skills to benefit fully
from the Information Society. Therefore capacity building and ICT
literacy are essential. ICTs can contribute to achieving universal
education worldwide, through delivery of education and training of
teachers, and offering improved conditions for lifelong learning,
encompassing people that are outside the formal education process,
and improving professional skills.
b) Develop and promote programmes to eradicate illiteracy using ICTs
at national, regional and international levels.
c) Promote e-literacy skills for all, for example by designing and
offering courses for public administration, taking advantage of
existing facilities such as libraries, multipurpose community
centres, public access points and by establishing local ICT training
centres with the cooperation of all stakeholders. Special attention
should be paid to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
d) In the context of national educational policies, and taking into
account the need to eradicate adult illiteracy, ensure that young
people are equipped with knowledge and skills to use ICTs, including
the capacity to analyse and treat information in creative and
innovative ways, share their expertise and participate fully in the
f) Develop pilot projects to demonstrate the impact of ICT-based
alternative educational delivery systems, notably for achieving
Education for All targets, including basic literacy targets.
C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local
23. Cultural and linguistic diversity, while stimulating respect
for cultural identity, traditions and religions, is essential to the
development of an Information Society based on the dialogue among
cultures and regional and international cooperation. It is an
important factor for sustainable development.
a) Create policies that support the respect, preservation, promotion
and enhancement of cultural and linguistic diversity and cultural
heritage within the Information Society, as reflected in relevant
agreed United Nations documents, including UNESCO's Universal
Declaration on Cultural Diversity. This includes encouraging
governments to design cultural policies to promote the production of
cultural, educational and scientific content and the development of
local cultural industries suited to the linguistic and cultural
context of the users.
f) Provide content that is relevant to the cultures and languages of
individuals in the Information Society, through access to traditional
and digital media services.
g) Through public/private partnerships, foster the creation of varied
local and national content, including that available in the language
of users, and give recognition and support to ICT-based work in all
h) Strengthen programmes focused on gender-sensitive curricula in
formal and non-formal education for all and enhancing communication
and media literacy for women with a view to building the capacity of
girls and women to understand and to develop ICT content.
i) Nurture the local capacity for the creation and distribution of
software in local languages, as well as content that is relevant to
different segments of population, including non-literate, persons
with disabilities, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups especially in
developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
j) Give support to media based in local communities and support
projects combining the use of traditional media and new technologies
for their role in facilitating the use of local languages, for
documenting and preserving local heritage, including landscape and
biological diversity, and as a means to reach rural and isolated and
k) Enhance the capacity of indigenous peoples to develop content in
their own languages.
m) Exchange knowledge, experiences and best practices on policies and
tools designed to promote cultural and linguistic diversity at
regional and sub-regional levels. This can be achieved by
establishing regional, and sub-regional working groups on specific
issues of this Plan of Action to foster integration efforts.
o) Governments, through public/private partnerships, should promote
technologies and R&D programmes in such areas as translation,
iconographies, voice-assisted services and the development of
necessary hardware and a variety of software models, including
proprietary, open source software and free software, such as standard
character sets, language codes, electronic dictionaries, terminology
and thesauri, multilingual search engines, machine translation tools,
internationalized domain names, content referencing as well as
general and application software.
- Happy new year to all subscribers and best wishes for 2004! ...
Following up on my posting of excerpts from the World Summit on the
Information Society's declaration & plan of action that mention
language, literacy, linguistic diversity, and multilingual, here are
excerpts from the Civil Society meeting's declaration. The entire
declaration is available at:
"Shaping Information Societies for Human Needs"
Civil Society Declaration to the World Summit on the Information
WSIS Civil Society Plenary, Geneva, 8 December 2003
1. A VISIONARY SOCIETY
... This means creating an enabling environment for the engagement
and commitment of all generations, both women and men, and ensuring
the involvement of diverse social and linguistic groups, cultures and
peoples, rural and urban populations without exclusion. ...
We envision societies where human knowledge, creativity, cooperation
and solidarity are considered core elements; where not only
individual creativity, but also collective innovation, based on
cooperative work are promoted. Societies where knowledge, information
and communication resources are recognised and protected as the
common heritage of humankind; societies that guarantee and foster
cultural and linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue, in
environments that are free from discrimination, violence and hatred.
2.1.7 Basic Literacy
Literacy and free universal access to education is a key principle.
Knowledge societies require an informed and educated citizenry.
Capacity-building needs to include skills to use ICTs, media and
information literacy, and the skills needed for active citizenship
including the ability to find, appraise, use and create information
and technology. Approaches that are local, horizontal, gender
responsive and socially driven and mediated should be prioritised. A
combination of traditional and new media as well as open access to
knowledge and information should be encouraged. Libraries - both real
and virtual - have an important role to play to ensure access to
knowledge and information available to everyone. At the international
and multilateral level, the public domain of knowledge and culture
needs to be protected. People-centred information technologies can
foster eradication of illnesses and epidemics, can help give everyone
food, shelter, freedom and peace.
Literacy, education and research are fundamental components of
information, communication and knowledge societies. Knowledge
creation and acquisition should be nurtured as a participatory and
collective process and not considered a one-way flow or confined to
one section of capacity building. Education (formal, informal, and
lifelong) builds democracy both by creating a literate citizenry and
a skilled workforce. But only an informed and educated citizenry with
access to the means andoutputs of pluralistic research can fully
participate in and effectively contribute to knowledge societies.
Urgent attention should be paid to the potential positive and
negative impacts of ICTs on the issues of illiteracy in regional,
national and international languages of the great majority of the
world's peoples. Literacy, education, and research efforts in the
information and communication societies must include a focus on the
needs of people who have physical impairments and all means of
transcending those impairments (for example, voice recognition, e-
learning, and open university training) must be promoted.
2.2 Centrality of Human Rights
An information and communication society should be based on human
rights and human dignity. With the Charter of the United Nations and
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as its foundation, it must
embody the universality, indivisibility, interrelation and
interdependence of all human rights - civil, political, economic,
social and cultural - including the right to development and
linguistic rights. This implies the full integration, concrete
application and enforcement of all rights and the recognition of
their centrality to democracy and sustainable development.
Information and communication societies must be inclusive, so that
all people, without distinction of any kind, can achieve their full
potential. The principles of non-discrimination and diversity must be
mainstreamed in all ICT regulation, policies, and programmes.
2.2.4 Workers' Rights
... Human rights, such as privacy, freedom of expression, linguistic
rights, the right for on-line workers to form and join trade unions
and the right of trade unions to function freely, including
communicating with employees, must be respected in the workplace.
2.2.5 Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The evolution of information and communication societies must be
founded on the respect and promotion of the recognition of the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples and their distinctiveness as outlined in
international conventions. Indigenous Peoples have fundamental rights
to protect, preserve and strengthen their own language, culture and
identity. ICT's should be used to support and promote diversity and
the rights and means of Indigenous Peoples to benefit fully and with
priority from their cultural, intellectual and so-called natural
2.3 Culture, Knowledge and the Public Domain
Information and communication societies are enriched by their
diversity of cultures and languages, retained and passed on through
oral tradition or recorded and transmitted through a variety of
media, and together contributing to the sum of human knowledge. Human
knowledge is the heritage of all humankind and the reservoir from
which all new knowledge is created. The preservation of cultural and
linguistic diversity, the freedom of the media and the defence and
extension of the public domain of global knowledge are as essential,
for information and communication societies, as the diversity of our
2.3.1 Cultural and Linguistic Diversity
Cultural and linguistic diversity is an essential dimension of people-
centred information and communication societies. Every culture has
dignity and value that must be respected and preserved. Cultural and
linguistic diversity is based, among other things, on the freedom of
information and expression and the right of everyone to freely
participate in the cultural life of the community, at local, national
and international levels. This participation includes activities both
as users and producers of cultural content. ICTs including
traditional communications media have a particularly important role
to play in sustaining and developing the world's cultures and
184.108.40.206 Capacity Building and Education
Cultural and linguistic diversity should not only be preserved; it
needs to be fostered. This implies capacity to express oneself, in
one's own language, at any time, by any means, including traditional
media and new ICTs. In order to become a contributor and a creator in
the information and communication societies, not only technical
skills are needed, but critical and creative competence. Media
education in the sense of the UNESCO Grunwald Declaration must be
given specific attention in education and training programs. Cultural
and linguistic diversity also implies equal access to the means of
expression and of dissemination of cultural goods and services.
Priority should be given to community-driven initiatives.
Plurality of languages is at the core of vibrant information and
communication societies. ICTs can be applied to bridge cultural and
linguistic divides, given the right priorities. In the past, ICT
development has too often reinforced inequalities, such as dominance
of roman letter based languages (especially English) and
marginalization of local, regional and minority languages. Priority
should be given in ICT research and development to overcoming
barriers and addressing inequalities between languages and cultures.
220.127.116.11 International Law and Regulation
International law and regulation should strengthen cultural,
linguistic and media diversity, in accordance with existing
international declarations and covenants, in particular Article 19
and Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Articles
19 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights; Articles 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights; and Articles 5 and 6 of the Universal
Declaration of Cultural Diversity adopted by UNESCO in 2001.
International trade agreements should treat culture, including audio-
visual content and services, not simply as a commodity, but should
take account of the need for cultural, linguistic and media
diversity. The establishment of an International Convention on
Cultural Diversity should be accelerated, with a view to achieving an
effective and binding international agreement. Existing international
copyright regulation instruments including TRIPS and WIPO should be
reviewed to ensure that they promote cultural, linguistic and media
diversity and contribute to the development of human knowledge.
18.104.22.168 Community Media
... A Community Media Fund should be established through a donor
civil society partnership to invest in and support community-driven
media, information and communication initiatives using traditional
media and new ICTs including projects that make provision for the
poorest communities, for cultural and linguistic diversity and for
the equal participation of women and girls. ...
... Its [free software's] special advantages for developing
countries, such as low cost, empowerment and the stimulation of
sustainable local and regional economies, easier adaptation to local
cultures and creation of local language versions, greater security,
capacity building, etc, need to be recognised, publicised and taken
advantage of. ...
2.4 Enabling Environment
2.4.3 Infrastructure and Access
... Governments should guarantee policies for the development of
telecentres, among others, to provide equitable and affordable access
to infrastructure and ICTs; to encourage digital inclusion policies
for the population, independently of gender, ethnic aspects,
language, culture and geographical situation. This would promote the
discussion and active participation of communities in public policy
processes related to the implementation and role of telecentres for
2.4.5 Human Development - Education and Training
Literacy, education and research are fundamental and interrelated
components of the information exchanges necessary to build knowledge
societies. Knowledge creation and acquisition should be nurtured as a
participatory and collective process; it should not be considered a
one-way flow or confined to one section of capacity building.
Education, in its different components - formal, informal, and
lifelong - is fundamental to building democratic societies both by
creating a literate citizenry and a skilled workforce.
To utilise the full potential of e-learning and long-distance
education, they must be complemented by traditional educational
resources and methods, in a local context of media pluralism and
Only informed and educated citizens with access to empowering
education, a plurality of means of information, and the outputs of
research efforts can fully participate in and effectively contribute
to knowledge societies. Therefore it is also essential to recognise
the right to education as stated both in the Declaration on the Right
to Development and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Capacity building initiatives designed to empower individuals and
communities in the information society must include, in addition to
basic literacy and ICT skills, media and information literacy, the
ability to find, appraise, use and create information and technology.
In particular, educators, students and researchers must be able to
use and develop Free Software, which allows the unfettered ability to
study, change, copy, distribute, and run software. Finally, capacity
building initiatives should be designed to stimulate the desire for
general learning and respond to specific as well as special needs:
those of young and elderly people, of women, of people with
impairments, of indigenous peoples, of migrant communities, of
refugees and returnees in post-conflict situations, in a life-long
perspective. Volunteers can help transmit knowledge and enhance
capacity, in particular of marginalized groups not reached by
government training institutions.
Capacity building in the information and communication societies
requires people who are competent in teaching media and communication
literacy. Therefore training of trainers and training of educators in
every level is equal important in order to reach out to people at the
limits of the information society.
Libraries are an important tool to fight digital divide and to ensure
continuous, out-of-market-ruled access to information, by freeing the
results of research funded by public support, by sharing content and
educational materials to promote literacy, build capacities and bring
autonomy to learners of all kinds, world wide. This also entails
convincing content producers to be active participants in the open
access paradigm of knowledge.
2.4.7 Global Governance of ICT and Communications
... new diverse international arrangements are needed to promote:
financial support for sustainable e-development, especially but not
only in less affluent nations; linguistic, cultural, and
informational diversity; and the curtailment of concentrated market
power in ICT and mass media industries.
... only a truly open, multistakeholder, and flexible approach [to
global coordination of the Internet's underlying resources] can
ensure the Internet's continued growth and transition into a
--- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, "Don Osborn" <dzo@b...>
> FYI... the recent World Summit on the Information Society in Genevathe
> issued a Declaration and Plan of Action. Out of curiosity I did
> quick searches to see what they said about "language," "linguistic
> diversity," "multilingual," and "literacy" - from that I compiled
> following list of excerpts. [ . . . ]