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Government information and services for socio-economic development in local SA languages using ICT. Britta Zawada, Riah Mabule, Kim Wallmach, Nathi Ngcobo Department of Linguistics, Unisa. The research reported on in this advisory report was commissioned by PNC on ISAD in September 2006
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Government information and services for socio-economic development in local SA languages using ICT Britta Zawada, Riah Mabule, Kim Wallmach, Nathi Ngcobo Department of Linguistics, Unisa
The research reported on in this advisory report was commissioned by PNC on ISAD in September 2006 • The research was undertaken by a team of the Department of Linguistics at the University of South Africa (Unisa)
The main problem investigated by this report is the lack of access by the people of South Africa to (national) government services and information in local languages using modern ICTs
The specific aims of this project are • to outline the status quo as it relates to the provision of national government information and services in local languages using ICT mediums • to scan the environment, highlighting gaps and challenges, and • to provide recommendations on how South Africa can address the challenges of providing government information in all South African languages
The methodology for the research reported here, in line with the brief, intention and aims of the PNC on ISAD, focused on four main aspects in the scanning of the environment: • a literature survey • international case studies • focus-group workshops, and • structured interviews
First focus-group: government representatives • The content of government information and services at national level • The target audience of this information • The status of the information • The status quo in terms of information provision in the local languages in your department
The information priorities in your department • The most suitable mode and medium for transferring information in your context • The challenges in your department in terms of information provision in the local languages • A wish list of your requirements that would enable you, in an ideal world, to provide government information and services to the people using all South African using ICT platforms
Second focus-group: Language ICT & HLT stakeholders • What is your organization doing that is/can contribute to giving access to information in SA languages using ICTs to all SA’s people (past, present and future projects)? • What are your experiences (both success stories and challenges and problems)? • What can be done to realize this dream (both by you and by government)?
The main generic challenges in the domain of access to information in local languages using ICT were identified as: • the lack of access to ICT by those who are most in need of development, and often life-saving, information • the low rate of proficiency in English as the de facto language of government, and • the low literacy rates in South Africa as most government information is available in written form only
Specific challenges: • Capacity • Attitude, will and motivation • Collaboration • Funding • Legislation
6) Professionalisation 7) Language development 8) Community Centres 9)Special needs 10) Dedicated SARS call centre for 2010
Interviews • 177 verbal one-on-one structured interviews with low-income / unemployed rural respondents • Northern Sotho, Xhosa and Afrikaans • Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape
Findings • Most of these interviewees had no access to any form of ICT at home or in their immediate vicinity (radio and cell) • Preferences: • most interviewees would prefer to communicate with government in their respective primary languages even though, in reality, their recent experiences of governmentcommunication were all in English
most interviewees would prefer face-to-face spoken communication, even though they often had to contend with written communication even though they are illiterate and are very far from local post offices • most interviewees that had been served by government in English felt that they did not fully understand the English used by the government official (dialectal variations)
many interviewees regarded government with suspicion because they felt that they were unsure of the integrity of the English information • there is a high correlation between the government service being offered in the primary language of the respondent, and their sense of satisfaction with the government service
International case studies India, Brazil, Malaysia and the EU • Infrastructure and policies • Language Resource Centres • Free multipurpose communication kiosks and community centres • Education and training
In conclusion: South Africa has excellent language policies and the infrastructure for ICTs as distribution medium: BUT
Policies are not being implemented: • Will and motivation: low ethnolinguistic vitality • Contradictory policies • Funding
Result: Written, formal English is the de facto lingua franca in general use in South Africa, particularly in communication with government This means…
that those most in need of government information and services for their socio-economic development • are least likely to be able to communicate in English, and • are least likely to have access to any kind of ICT-supported information or services due to poverty and education
Non-implementation of the NLPF • Overlap in mandate of DAC and PanSALB • National HLT Centre • Lack of human capacity • Lack of coordinated and sustained funding
Recommendations: • Implementation of NLPF supported by funding for all government departments in the medium-term expenditure framework to establish properly staffed and resourced language units in national departments • That a National Professional Council of Language Practitioners is established as soon as possible (DAC)
Independent steering committee : • audit DAC and PanSALB activities and projects • establish National Centre for HLT • list language practitioners and linguists, particularly in the African languages and in computational linguistics as scarce skills in JIPSA and Asgisa
launch programme on ethnolinguistic vitality, especially in finance and business and other high-profile domains
Multi-purpose communication community centres and kiosks • Large cadre of CDWs • Mobile roving services • More support for ICT distribution initiatives • Bilingual forms • Further research
8th Language and Development Conference Thank you!