The 18th Francophonie Summit takes place on November 19 and 20 on the Tunisian island of Djerba with the theme “Digital, vector of development and solidarity in the French-speaking world”. For French-speaking countries, Internet access in their language is essential for economic and cultural development.
Interview by Xavier Sartre – Vatican City
In the linguistic landscape of the Internet, the English-speaking tree hides the multilingual forest. Forest in which the presence of the French language is declining. Not so much because it is declining in absolute terms, but because other languages are making more progress. However, French remains the fourth most used language on the web, roughly on a par with Russian, Portuguese, Hindi and Arabic. The cause of this decline, which the International Organization of La Francophonie is well aware of, is the digital divide in African countries. Gold, “French has tremendous promise in the future,” believes Daniel Pimienta, head of the Observatory of Linguistic and Cultural Diversity on the Internet, a promise that is based on the demographic perspectives of the African continent, and in particular of its French-speaking countries.
To reduce this digital divide, which is essential for these populations, regardless of their language, “We need to involve the private sector and in particular the telecommunications companies,” says one who has been watching the internet since its inception. It’s not an impossible mission when you look “The Asian and Arab worlds,” “which have bridged this divide in the last five or ten years”says Daniel Pimienta.
For the French language, “The stakes are extraordinary” cultural and linguistic point of view, but also economic, justifies the head of the Observatory. E-commerce now accounts for 20% of global trade and the trend is getting stronger year after year. Gold, “Consumers buy in their own language, they are not ready to buy products in a foreign language”, he explains. Therefore, “If a language is not present on the Internet, it will lose market segments in commerce. It’s not a detail.”he continues.
Cultural issues are also crucial, especially since the evolution of Internet search engine algorithms means that the most interesting pages on scientific or cultural topics are no longer necessarily referenced or visible. Quebecers invented the word “detectability”, that is, the extent of the visibility of a page, welcomes Daniel Pimienta. A real challenge in a digital environment dominated by social networks that make the Internet a tool “of noise, of noise, in which to be present and to be visible is no longer to contribute to general knowledge in the world, but to contribute to noise, hatred, even racism in the world”. he’s sorry
Promote French and African languages
In a constantly changing world, where the Internet is taking up more and more space, the development of the French language online can also help the development of French-speaking countries. “If French speakers are concerned about partner languages, that is, local African languages,” considers the director of the Observatory of Linguistic and Cultural Diversity on the Internet. Speakers of these languages are truly under-represented on the Internet. And this requires, once again, reducing the digital divide on the continent. “In the world to come, which is multilingual, it is very important to have a place in the virtual world. There is not a virtual world on one side and a virtual world on the other, it is a continuum and today, the presence in the virtual world conditions the presence in the real world”. concludes Daniel Pimienta.