The Association of African Universities (AAU) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are implementing a project that seeks to make internet more accessible, open, and inclusive in Africa.
The Universal Acceptance (AU) Readiness in African Universities Project, which was launched in Accra on Thursday, seeks to develop systems that would support the ability of internet users in Africa to browse the internet using their own local languages.
The Project seeks to equip African universities and research centres to develop the scripts and make local languages inter-operable on the internet.
Speaking to journalists at the launch, Mr Pierre Danjinou, the Vice President of Global Stakeholder Engagement for Africa – ICANN, expressed concern that millions of people on the continent were not using the internet.
He said the Project would help to address the language barrier and make it possible for individuals who could not communicate in English or French use the internet.
Mr Danjinou said the Project would also ensure that data generated in Africa stayed within the continent.
“In Africa, there are more than 2,500 different languages. What it means is that if we are able to work on those scripts, local languages will be on the internet.
“In that case, you will search using your own local language. This means that people who have a difficulty in English can use their own local language,” he said.
Reverend John Ntim Fodjour, the Deputy Minister of Education, welcomed the Project, saying it would help to address equity aspects of internet access through enabling protocols and principles that promoted a “multilingual Internet”.
He said it was important that young people, computer science students, IT staff and related professionals were not left behind in the developments of the internet industry.
“For our case in Ghana and Africa, Universal Acceptance and Email Address Internationalization will ensure that our email mailbox names can use characters in local languages and scripts,” Rev. Fodjour said.
Professor Olusola Bandele Oyewole, Secretary General of AAU, said the Project would help to strengthen the accessibility of internet across the continent, with a specific focus on making email systems and other communication platforms of Africa’s higher education institutions ready for Universal Acceptance and Email Address Internationalisation.
“AAU is strategically positioned to use its platform of 420 Vice-Chancellors and 420 Information Technology Directors that will champion the required changes to achieve universally accepted email systems, websites and other digital platforms,” he said.
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