Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Accessing the Internet in Lusoga?

A recent article in the magazine of the Ugandan newspaper East African, with the odd title of "Mother tongue interference on the Internet" (also available here) discusses Kiganira Deogracious Kijambu's "dream that one day he will access the Internet in Lusoga, his mother tongue." He's described as having developed a successful "e-commerce agricultural business."

The latter fact is significant. There is I think a tendency to discount the utility of local language content or interfaces in a medium that knows no local boundaries. E-commerce in a language with just over million speakers? Even if one considers that Lusoga is very close to Luganda, which has a few million more first & second language speakers, this is still relatively small in the global scheme of things.

I've even tended to emphasize not e-commerce in my discussions of African languages and ICT for rural development, but rather information for extension and building on local technical knowledge. So this article is a welcome reality check as it were. If you're planning to expand use of ICT for any kind of rural development in Africa, don't discount the languages that farmers and their communities speak in their work.

The next question is how to link Mr. Kijambu with others in Africa and beyond who can help this dream become a practical reality. More on that later.

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