Linguistic diversity is an integral part of cultural diversity. It enables women and men to express emotions, intentions, values and understanding from diverse cultural, social and professional backgrounds. Language plays a part in the construction and expression of individual and collective identity.
It is cause for serious concern that over 50 percent of some 6,700 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing. Meanwhile, of the almost 2,500 endangered languages listed in UNESCO’s Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger, more than 570 are considered critically endangered languages and over 230 languages have become extinct since 1950. At the same time, less than five percent of the world’s languages have a presence online.
Therefore, UNESCO is supportive of Indonesian Internet Domain Registry (PANDI) in its initiative, “Connecting the Nation through Ancient Character Digitalisation,” to preserve Indonesian indigenous languages’ characters and to make them as widely available scripts online and on various digital platforms.
“It is important that the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of Indonesia is reflected online especially since young people nowadays are mostly digital natives” said Professor Yudho Giri Suchayo, Chairman of PANDI during the semi-virtual launch event of the initiative in Jakarta on 12 December.
Indonesia has 718 languages being used in the country but most do not have substantial online presence apart from the national language Bahasa Indonesia. PANDI aims to register at least seven indigenous language scripts, including Sunda, Jawa, Rejang, Batak, Pegon, Lontara, and Kawi at UNICODE and ICANN.
“This will be a major undertaking but the results will be worth it” said HRH Prince Notonegoro of the Royal Palace of Yogyakarta during his remarks. Prince Notonegoro also urged all stakeholders to help “preserve ancient script and encourage younger generation to learn more about their heritage.”
Additionally, Andi Mallarangeng representing Aksara Lontara said “we as the community have to make sure the script is actively being used” and “we can show the world that our cultural heritage can be preserved online”. This sentiment was echoed by Semmy Pangerapan, Director-General for Application and Informatics at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics when he said “information has no borders” and that “this is the best time for this initiative.”
Since 2003, UNESCO has adopted the Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace that encourages all countries, among others, to develop multilingual content and systems and to facilitate access to networks and systems. Having a diverse languages online will have a positive impact on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals especially Goal 16 on access to information.