Why Bisharat?

Why Bisharat? is really two questions:

  1. Why is there a need for a language, technology & development initiative such as this?
  2. Why the name “Bisharat”?

The answer to the first question is outlined below, that for the second is discussed here

Events are moving quickly with respect to technological and socio-economic changes. However, in Africa, as elsewhere in the global South, there are few resources to deal with ICT issues (and a lot of other pressing basic needs demanding resources)

Opportunities may be lost to the extent that timely actions are not taken. Partly in recognition of this fact, outside agencies and organizations are working to assist Africa in the area of ICTs, focusing at this point on the essential issues of basic connectivity and physical access. However, few are yet addressing the equally important “meaningful access” and content issues.

Language is both a key consideration to making access to ICTs meaningful, and an important factor in creating relevant web content. However, African languages are very rarely used on computers or the internet. The same is true for most of the world's languages.

Lack of standardization makes it difficult to localize software and web content for African and other languages with specialized characters or non-Latin alphabets. The main problem is not technical, but rather one of awareness, communication, and resources.

There is therefore a need to:

  • raise these issues with policymakers & donors
  • enhance coordination among individuals & groups that are working with African (& other non-Western) languages & ICTs
  • forge links between people working on grassroots development (maternal language literacy, indigenous knowledge, local NGOs, etc.) and those exploring practical applications of ICTs to the pressing problems of poverty.

Bisharat seeks to generate activity in these areas with a focus on rural development in West Africa.