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Almost 73% of potential online shoppers want to check out available information in their own language. Yet, 57% of all content on the Internet is in English. Photo: Bloomberg
Connecting, informing and empowering, the Internet holds the promise to be the Great Leveller of our times. However, the way it is evolving around us, it seems poised to become a tool of digital exclusion, creating a world of great disproportion. Limiting access to non-English users, we may be unknowingly creating a virtual world mirroring the inequity and alienation around us—a sad destiny for a technology which could take us towards an equal, non-discriminatory future.
Let’s look at some statistics. Among the world’s 6.5 billion mobile users, only one billion use English. Nine out of 10 Internet users prefer to access it in their own language. Almost 73% of potential online shoppers want to check out available information in their own language. Yet, 57% of all content on the Internet is in English. Meanwhile, 30 out of 50 major world languages are complex, requiring special treatment to be mobile or Internet-enabled.
Take the case of India, home to hundreds of languages and dialects, with more than 900 million mobile connections. On one hand, we have an information overload for those literate in English. On the other, over 500 million mobile users face digital exclusion since digital devices are English-driven, says Reverie Language Technologies. Reverie, which is into language enablement of digital devices, is also one of the mBillionth award winners. About 76% of India’s 1.2 billion population is literate, out of which only under 10% can comprehend English. This means the vast majority is shut out of the English-driven Internet. It also means that 500 million people use their mobile phones to make and receive calls, their lack of English skills keeping them out of the vast possibilities of an empowering mobile web.
Reverie, which attempts to remove language barriers before mobile Internet users, has its finger on the pulse. According to the company, the challenges for non-English users are non-availability and poor quality of fonts, poor user interface and user experience, erroneous text and design rendering which lead to distorted page and information display, lack of standard keypads, cumbersome typing without predictive support, scarce content and applications and poor social media experience. – by Osama Manzar
[Source: livemint.com, JUNE 09 2014] Read More