UNESCO and SIL initiate joint effort to promote multilingualism in cyberspace

Left to right: Jesse Johnston (SIL International Relations Officer), Paul Frank (SIL Vice President for Academic Affairs), Davide Storti  (UNESCO Information Society Division member), Paul G. C. Hector (UNESCO Information Society Division member), David Pearson (SIL Representative to UNESCO)

(January 24, 2003) Representatives from UNESCO and SIL initiated plans for a joint project to promote multilingualism on the web during meetings held January 20-22, 2003. "It's really great to see the enthusiasm of the SIL team here. With partners like you we can go a long way toward achieving these goals," said Paul G. C. Hector, UNESCO Information Society Division member.

One of the key topics considered during the meetings was the utilization of an SIL-produced software known as Graphite, a program designed to enable computers to display complex non-Roman scripts. "Almost everyday we receive requests for tools to manage minority languages on the computer, so we are very excited to talk with SIL about their Graphite system," stated Davide Storti, UNESCO Information Society Division member. The agreement between SIL and UNESCO contains seven objectives including use of the Graphite software. These include plans that SIL will develop ways to enable software applications to input and display complex script data and will provide basic documentation of Graphite to help software developers incorporate Graphite into other software. SIL will also modify a web browser to enable it to display content in complex scripts.

Graphite rendering of complex rules in Bengali script
Above: An example of Graphite's abitlity to properly render scripts with complex rules, such as the placement of vowels in Bengali script.

"We were encouraged to learn last year of UNESCO's desire to promote multilingualism in cyberspace. Their concern overlaps a great deal with SIL's efforts to facilitate the use of non-Roman and complex scripts in linguistic study, literacy, translation and publishing," says, Dr. Paul S. Frank, Vice President for Academic Affairs for SIL. "UNESCO and SIL share a common concern in finding technical solutions for hundreds of minority languages that have complex writing systems and thus are left out of the cyber-connected world," he stated.

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