Social interpreter: ICT literacy, languages, migrations

19 Mar 2018 11:00h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

The moderator opened the floor by talking of different projects focused on migrants, and the diaspora, and using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to overcome these communities’ challenges in relation to cultural diversity and linguistic matters.

Mr Didier Van der Meeren, director of Le Monde des Possibles, introduced the non-profit centre based in Liege, Belgium, as having two aims: to identify the needs and concerns of immigrants and to provide French as a second language through courses and ICT literacy programmes. Their project, Univerbal, focuses on language challenges faced by migrants where they work with 205 trainees of 69 nationalities. This is a social interpreting programme led by women funded by EU Social. The project also aims to challenge gender discrimination which is rampant in migrant female communities in European countries. By solving linguistic barriers Univerbal also aims to help migrant women to integrate better, to have better social and economic autonomy, and to become part of the city, country, and community they live in. Through the project women receive 300 hours’ training to be social interpreters, and the training includes an ethics component as well. They are later paid for their work as interpreters, highlighting the cooperative and financial structure of the project. Hospitals, courts, municipal and similar services have a high need for social interpreters and the project provides its services in 410 languages. The project also has a blog where migrant women and men can share experiences, challenges and successes in their personal journey to becoming translators and interpreters. Van der Meeren also talked about the financial sustainability aspect since trusting that they will keep receiving grants is not dependable. They are conducting market research to find where the translations are needed.

Mr Louis Pouzin, an Internet pioneer from Paris, took the floor to speak about the more technical developments regarding overcoming the linguistic challenges of the Internet. He started with security, pointing out how it is practically impossible to achieve this to the fullest, since the initial design of the network was an experiment. Moving on to explain how, if a system is not secure, privacy is also endangered, he highlighted how big companies and governments can extract information on very large numbers of people. Pouzin pointed out that these problems were magnified for migrants, stating how, although majority of world languages are not Latin scripted, the Internet is mostly in Latin script. He emphasised that the language aspect of the online world needs to be taken care of and ‘we must reinvent the Internet’ ­– as a piece of software the Internet is much more flexible than hardware or physical infrastructure. Pouzin spoke of new prototypes which all run on virtual machines and can be used or developed by individuals with fewer technical skills. Researchers at the University of Boston in collaboration with European and African researchers are redeveloping the Internet, using the name Recursive Inter-Network Architecture (RINA). It aggregates virtual machines and terminals to build networks as large as you need which are available through exchange systems. Since the world doesn’t have homogeneous needs and requirements, RINA offers communities the possibility of building private internets responding to their unique needs. It can run on Windows and Linux. Users can also create and utilise virtual keyboards with various scripts while being able to access the Internet. Pouzin also spoke of 5G which has already been implemented in the USA and North and South Korea: this used to be seen as a dream but now is reality. He highlighted how the decentralised nature of RINA would also mean fewer monopolies.

The session ended early with the announcement that listed speakers Ms Chantal LeBrument, president, Eurolinc and Ms Isabella Pierangeli, a researcher at the University of Verona were not able to join the session.


By Su Sonia Herring