Offering practical approaches to finding a place for African Languages in the information revolution, this overview lays the foundation for more effectively bridging the "digital divide" by finding new solutions to old problems. Conducted by the PanAfrican Localization project under the sponsorship of Canada’s International Development Research Center, this survey explores obstacles that impede greater use of African Languages in computer software and internet content, assesses possible solutions and maps for their reach, and identifies future trends in the field. Among the key issues discussed are the importance of localization in the African context; barriers to more widespread use of African Languages in internet computer technology; and by whom, for which Languages, and in which countries efforts are being made. Central to the discussion is the introduction of the concept of "localization ecology" to account for the key factors, facilitate discussion of their interaction, and call attention to how planning and implementing localization can and should consider these issues.
Don Osborn is a founder and a director of Bisharat, Ltd., a Language, technology, and development initiative dedicated to enhancing the use of African Languages in computing and on the internet in the service of development. It is the implementing organization of the PanAfrican Localization project. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.