By APCNews MONTEVIDEO, 28 January 2009
Back in 2007, when APC members and staff got together to translate and print the APC internet rights charter in twenty languages, we found that campaigners in Asian countries in particular pointed out that information about information and communications technology (ICT) is usually only available in English. “In Pakistan, not even the government provides basic ICT policy information in Urdu,” Bytes for All’s Shahzad Ahmad told APC. Now APC’s latest annual report is available in Urdu, a language spoken by 265 million people.
Shahzad Ahmad talked to APCNews about the importance of this publication in his part of the world. Shahzad is a Pakistani representative of APC member organisation Bytes for All, and coordinated the production of the Urdu report, which was launched in late October in Islamabad.
APCNews: How much information on ICT4D is available in Pakistan in Urdu?
Shahzad Ahmad: Actually very little. Even though the Pakistani government considers Urdu content a priority, Urdu is still defining itself with regards to ICT4D-related content. Translation of terminology, availability of freely usable fonts and software, and people’s ability to communicate (online) is still a challenge.
APCNews: Where are you circulating the APC annual report 2007 in Urdu?
SA: The report has been shared with policy makers, members of two National Assembly standing committees on ICTs, rights-based NGOs, women’s organisations, members of the Pakistan Software Houses Association, the Internet Service Providers Association, academia, media and minority groups working in remote areas.
What’s really significant about APC asking us to produce a paper version of the report is because if it were only available digitally, very few could actually read it. The people who matter in decision-making corridors, especially the government officials in the various ministries and politicians, do not use the internet themselves. This is why it is so important that they receive a copy on their table.
APCNews: In 2007, you and colleagues in a hundred-strong online network came up with terminologies in Urdu to be able to talk about internet rights and to translate the APC internet rights charter. Have there been any major repercussions since?
SA: The network and dissemination of the internet rights charter in Urdu seeded a debate around rights issues and technology. Up until now, particularly in government circles, IT has been seen without the “C” for communication and has been seen stricktly from a business angle. Now we have a basis on which we are building our campaign around internet rights issues. The government has just started the process to come up with a new policy and we are part of this process.
The APC annual report 2007 is available in English, Spanish, French and Urdu online and was printed in English and Urdu.
Photo taken from APC annual report: With the APC annual report now available in Urdu, previously inaccessible information on ICTs and ICT policy is now available to as many as 265 million speakers of Urdu in Indian and Pakistan.