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A digital future for indigenous languages : Insights from the Partnerships Forum

28 November 2023


By 2100, it is predicted that half of the world's spoken languages will either vanish or be on the brink of extinction. In response to this alarming trend, the United Nations, Indigenous Peoples Organizations and UN indigenous mechanisms have collaboratively designated the period from 2022 to 2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. UNESCO, at the forefront of this global initiative, recently hosted a panel to explore the barriers hindering indigenous communities from accessing digital resources and to discuss the necessary steps for integrating indigenous languages into digital platforms.


Today, there are over 7,000 languages, each characterized by unique Over the past three decades, the growing number of endangered languages has raised concerns among researchers, international organizations, governments and institutions.

In the digital age, marked by the omnipresence of technology and the benefits of the Internet can pose a threat to linguistic diversity. Global communication often fosters a homogenous culture, reflecting the economic and cultural influence of specific actors. A 2021 study revealed that 76.9% of online languages correspond to the world's top ten most spoken languages. Recognizing this threat, UNESCO leads efforts to preserve and integrate indigenous languages into the digital world, in line with the 2003 Open Educational Resources (OER) Recommendation.

A panel of experts, including Kevin Chan from Meta PlatformsDenis Rose from the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Group in Australia, Kristin Solbjør, from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and Juan Pablo Gutiérrezan indigenous activist from the Yukpa Community of Colombia, discussed partnership opportunities for digital empowerment in Indigenous Languages. 

Juan Pablo Gutierrez stressed the need for a holistic approach to using technologies for safeguarding Indigenous languages, emphasizing their oral nature and diversity. The discussion also tackled the financial challenges, with Kristin Solbjør noting the need for "governments to fund technologies despite their lack of profitability for businesses". Kevin highlighted Meta’s efforts, including the open-source platform  No Languages Left Behind aimed at facilitating language preservation.

The consensus from the panel was clear – a united effort is essential to navigate the challenges and pave the way for sustainable linguistic future for indigenous community worldwide. Denis Rose, also highlighted the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as a deeper understanding of indigenous communities’ needs.