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Crossing the Digital Divide shaping technologies to meet human needs

Kathmandu, Nepal, 5th to 7th January 2004

New: Conference Summary


This is the final conference of the SCALLA project, funded by the European Union under contract ASI/B7-301/97/0126-05. The objective of the SCALLA project is to bring the computational linguistics and software localisation communities in Europe and South Asia closer together to learn from each other through participation in conferences and workshops in South Asia and Europe. Underpinning this was a concern about the "digital divide", that people in South Asia, and indeed elsewhere, were being disadvantaged with respect to accessing computers and in particular the Internet. The digital divide occurs for a variety of political, social, economic, and technical reasons - one important reason is the lack of software support for local languages and culture, the focus of the project.
We held our first conference in Bangalore in November 2001, with twenty six invited delegates from South Asia and Europe. Then in 2002 two South Asian delegates visited the LangTech conference in Berlin in September and two South Asian delegates visited the eContent Localisation conference in Dublin in November. We organised a workshop at the EACL 2003 conference in Budapest in April 2003 on Computational Linguistics for South Asian languages, with participation following normal academic workshop principles, involving nine participants from South Asia and about the same number from Europe.

Now in this final workshop we aim to consolidate what we have learnt over the past two and a half years, and to look to the future. As well as revisiting computational linguistics for South Asian languages, we will consider in greater detail the localisation of software to those languages and the reasons why this is important. As well as technical support for languages we will also consider social and policy issues concerned with linguistic diversity. We will aim to identify gaps in current support, both technical and socio-political, contrasting the situation in South Asia with that in Europe.
This will lead us to consider what advice and actions might be appropriate to help advance technical support for languages across South Asia, to help cross the digital divide. In this process we also expect to discover advice and actions which in turn we should take back to help the European Union in its own efforts to remove its own digital divide.
Participation is by invitation from across Europe and South Asia. Participants have produced position papers to set the scene for the work of the conference set out in the programme.

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