Friday, June 09, 2017

Digitizing books in Nigerian languages

The national libraries of Norway and Nigeria are set to formalize an agreement (on 10 June 2017) for digitization of literature written in Nigerian languages. Plans are for the project to begin in Norway and then shift to Nigeria after three years.

The project has interesting implications for digitization of materials in African languages more broadly. For one thing it could serve as a pilot for similar collaborative efforts in other areas of the continent. Those could involve libraries in other Northern countries that have significant holdings in African languages.

Another aspect to consider is that of cross-border languages. Of the three languages that the project will initially focus on - Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo - the first two are also spoken in other countries of the region. Could this effort to digitize books be designed to anticipate readers from other countries where those languages are spoken, and involve their national libraries?

There are some questions concerning format and access which one anticipates will be answered as details on the project are shared.


Ascah said...

A good initiative which should be emulated by other countries.

Thomas said...

Will this be extended to other African languages or just Nigeria?

Don said...

On 26 June 2017, The Economist ran an article on this project entitled "Norway and Nigeria’s unlikely bibliophilic collaboration."

Don said...

Thanks Thomas. I do not know if the Norwegians have plans for digitizing any other African language materials beyond those from Nigeria. It would however seem to be important to discuss a larger program of digitizing African language materials - both formally published (and often not easily obtainable in Africa, even when published in Africa) and produced via local presses (and also not widely available).

Marianne said...

I am hoping that soon materials in smaller Nigerian languages will also be digitized and will be accessible everywhere.

Don said...

Thanks Marianne. Seems the "decamillionaire" languages get all the attention. Technology should help us to both democratize the "linguasphere" (facilitating access to knowledge through, and capacities for expression and production in, diverse tongues) and bridge "language barriers" (which are really divides). It still has that potential, IMO. One key to realizing it in multilingual countries might be more emphasis on language technologies as part of computer science and tech training programs.

Is (are) there a specific language(s) that interest you or that you're working on?