That some people cannot speak or write English does not make them illiterates. They already have a mastery of literature and grammar in their natural language. That some people must communicate in some other languages (either machine of human) apart from their natural language creates some additional barrier to communications and expressions.
The Nigerian community, despite its diverse ethnic composition, is predominantly three main groups popularly referred to as Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. With our population, advancements in Communication and Technology provides the opportunity for us to start promoting our languages on the Internet.
Great scholars have arisen from Nigeria in ancient times, who codified their work in Arabic, and other languages that may not be exciting to scholars of the western world. What about oral literature and Poetry that is locked in our indigenous languages? Would it not be wonderful, if Nigerians can register their domain name in any of Arabic, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba to give expression to their ingenuity and identity?
This is the exact freedom that Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) brings to the table. It enables people, around the world use domain names in natural local languages and scripts. These IDNs are formed using characters from different scripts, such as Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic or Devanagari. They are encoded by the Unicode standard and used as allowed by relevant IDN protocols.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is working hard as creating the next set of IDNs and this is the time to join the effort so that the next Billion people that will be connected from Africa, will find it easy to communicate on the Internet. ICANN’s working group on IDN does have volunteers working on IDN, and they have Yoruba as one of their languages of interest. This is apart from Arabic which is spoken is a larger part of Northern Nigeria.
NIRA will be complementing ICANN’s efforts with a National flavour, but we will be including the other two major languages in Nigeria, ie Hausa and Igbo. This is a first step, as NIRA believes all indigenous languages should remain natural to its speakers on the Internet. Of course, we must start from somewhere, if we must achieve anything, in this regard.
We have started, by co-opting ICANN’s IDN Latin Script community members – Dr. Tunde Adegbola a lecturer at the University of Ibadan and Mr. Seun Ojedeji of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti to be pioneer members of the NIRA IDN working group. We now invite other interested individuals working either as Linguists, Language Technologists or plain enthusiasts, either in the Academia or the Industry, who wish to be part of the group, please send an Email to us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We do have an opportunity to preserve our heritage and languages by putting them online, naturally.
If not now, when? If not us, who? Let’s do it!
Rev’d Sunday Folayan