Multilingualism: Enabling Access to the Knowledge Society

Tilde, Latvia

Session 256

14:30–16:15, Monday, 12 June 2017 Room L1, ITU Montbrillant Thematic Workshop

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Creating equal opportunities online for all linguistic communities

We communicate, think, pass along information and knowledge through language. That is why the ability to deal with human language is so essential in all information and communication technologies. The ability to use the Internet and ICTs in the language you comprehend determines inclusion or exclusion from the Knowledge Society. Although there are more than 6000 languages spoken on our planet today, only a dozen or two are flourishing in the digital world with advanced language understanding and spoken language communication technologies. Limitations in the multilingual skills of computers and mobile devices widen the digital gap which excludes hundreds of millions of people from accessing the full benefits of the Internet and digital technologies.

How are state of the art language technologies changing the way we interact in the digital world? How to provide equal access to ICT advancements for all language communities? How to preserve a language from digital extinction? What is the role of language technologies for language vitality in the digital age? What are examples of national and international activities that advance the development and usage of language technologies? These are the key questions that will be discussed by a panel of internationally renowned experts in multilingual technologies.

We will show how policy measures and practical activities on the global, regional and local level are bridging the language divide and fostering a truly multilingual and inclusive Information and Knowledge Society. UNESCO will share its approach for raising global awareness and promoting linguistic and cultural diversity. The European Commission will present its strategy and work on a multilingual infrastructure to ensure equal online opportunities for all 24 official languages of the European Union. The development of the Latvian language in the Internet era will serve as a vivid example of how a small language with only 2 million speakers can successfully strive for the most advanced technological support. We will also present how the research community in cooperation with private sector is working on novel technologies that expand the range of technologically fit languages.

The workshop invites us to forge targeted efforts to equip all language communities with the digital tools to enable their access to information and full participation in the Knowledge Society. Taking a glimpse beyond 2025, we should finally put an end to the language based confusion, exclusion, and discrimination so vividly depicted by the myth of the Tower of Babel. With the power of technologies we can preserve linguistic and cultural diversity while at the same time eliminating language barriers.

This workshop addresses the Vision for WSIS beyond 2015 of “everyone’s right to express themselves and to create and disseminate their work and local content in the language of their choice”.   It is directly related to the Action lines C8 and C3, and has a strong horizontal impact on C4 and C6 as well as several SDGs (4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16). 


Dr. Andrejs Vasiļjevs, CEO, Tilde, Latvia


Mr. Jānis Kārkliņš, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Latvia to the United Nations Office in Geneva

Mr. Indrajit Banerjee, Head of Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO HQ

Mr. Marco Marsella, Head of the Learning, Multilingualism and Accessibility at the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology of the European Commission, Luxembourg

Mr. Joseph Mariani, Research Director Emeritus, LIMSI-CNRS; Honorary President, European Language Resource Association, France

Session's link to WSIS Action Lines

  • AL C3 logo C3. Access to information and knowledge
  • AL C4 logo C4. Capacity building
  • AL C6 logo C6. Enabling environment
  • AL C8 logo C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content

Session's link to Sustainable Development Process

  • Goal 4: Quality education logo Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5: Gender equality logo Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth logo Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure logo Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities logo Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities logo Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions logo Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies


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