Best Practice Forum on local content
The theme of the Best Practice Forum on Local Content for 2020 is local and indigenous content in digital space, as highlighted by Mr Carlos Alberto Afonso (BPF Local Content co-facilitator). He explained that the draft report for 2020 includes four main themes: digital opportunities in the protection, preservation, and promotion of local and indigenous languages; digital opportunities in the protection, preservation, and promotion of cultural heritage; the protection, preservation, and promotion of other forms of local content in the digital age; and funding opportunities and sustainability and funding in the production of various forms of local content.
The methodology behind the report builds on a public survey, submissions from organisations working in the area, online stakeholder discussions, and additional research on good practice, as explained by Ms Sorina Teleanu (Consultant, IGF Secretariat). Regarding the first theme, for example, she highlighted six case studies: work by UNESCO on supporting local and indigenous languages, the organisation Rising Voices, various Wikimedia projects, projects focused on the digitalisation of indigenous languages, radio and TV stations in local languages, and the facilitation of COVID-19 related information in local and indigenous languages.
The discussion highlighted the role of users and local content creators for ensuring the protection, preservation, and promotion of local and indigenous languages. For example, Ms Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg (Programme Specialist, UNESCO) pointed out a trend around the world towards more and more content in dominated languages. Hence, the creation of local content needs to be encouraged.
The topic of encouraging the creation of local content in local and indigenous languages was addressed. Ms Allison Davenport (Senior Public Policy Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation) described a number of programmes run by Wikimedia. She stressed the importance of the structural set-up of projects and incentive programmes. For example, in the case of Wikipedia the fact that it is community run, separated by languages, non-profit, and ad-free plays an important role in encouraging local and indigenous content creation. She also emphasised that material support and incentives for this type of content played an important role in growing local language content on Wikipedia. Mr Eddie Avila (Director, Rising Voices) described a number of projects run by his organisation that started with a workshop on local activism in indigenous languages in 2014. He also mentioned some of the challenges that need to be addressed, including: hardware (lack of appropriate keyboards); questions concerning appropriate content on the Internet; having meeting spaces for people to discuss and address the challenges they face (how to handle situations in which a term has no equivalent in the local or indigenous language). Mr Wend Wendland (Director, Traditional Knowledge Division, WIPO) described five projects undertaken by WIPO that cover content creation; translation; supporting entrepreneurship; work with museums, libraries, and archives; and the development of international norms and regulations. He also stressed the importance of intellectual property rights and ensuring these rights for creators working in local and indigenous languages.
In considering the role of the Internet, it was agreed that huge opportunities exist for democratising content creation and encouraging non-dominant languages and voices. However, Avila was clear that ‘the Internet is not a magic solution for language revitalisation, but rather it is part of an overall strategy that includes academics, linguists, public policy makers, and tech companies’. Appropriate norms and regulations are also important. Kasinskaite-Buddeberg stressed the importance of the UNESCO recommendation of 2003 on Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace and the UNESCO Internet universality indicators.
In considering what libraries can do, it was mentioned that libraries are an important element in facilitating local content and preserving it for future generations. Libraries on all levels need to collect information, stories, and knowledge about their own areas and make this content available. Mr Stephen Wyber (Policy and Advocacy Manager, International Federation of Library Associations) stressed the importance of small, public and community libraries: in helping to ensure cultural survival and communities. He mentioned examples from libraries in Australia, Lithuania, and Qatar.
The experience of newspapers and TV in local languages was also discussed. Newspapers and TV stations are facing challenges due to digitalisation and changes in how people consume content. However, these changes are also an opportunity to find new readers and viewers. Mr Rhodri ap Dyfrig (Online Content Commissioner, S4C, Wales) stressed the importance of a digital transformation to keep audiences and find new ones,to improve viewer experience, and to build a connection with audiences. He described a number of examples of creating digital content and using social media to reach younger audiences in the local language. In this sense, embracing digitalisation is also a great way to reach micro-level audiences and encourage local media creation. Mr Tomas Garcia Moran (Editor, La Voz de Galicia) highlighted the importance of serving language communities to keep relevant audiences interested and to finance the challenges of digitalisation through subscription models.