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WSIS: Mentions of language, linguistic diversity, multilingual & literacy

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  • Don Osborn
    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
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 21, 2003
      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.

      Don Osborn

      Document WSIS-03/GENEVA/DOC/4-E12
      December 2003
      Original: English

      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
      local content
      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.


      Document WSIS-03/GENEVA/DOC/5-E
      12 December 2003
      Original: English

      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
      Information Society.
      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
      artistic fields.
      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
      nomadic communities.
      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.

    • Don Osborn
      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
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 1, 2004
        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:

        Don Osborn

        "Shaping Information Societies for Human Needs"
        Civil Society Declaration to the World Summit on the Information
        WSIS Civil Society Plenary, Geneva, 8 December 2003

        ... 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
        natural environment.

        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
        languages. 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. Language
        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. 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. 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. ... Software
        ... 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
        local development.

        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
        linguistic diversity.

        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
        multilingual medium.

        --- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, "Don Osborn" <dzo@b...>
        > 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
        > following list of excerpts. [ . . . ]
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