Press Release: Afghan language

Michael Everson everson at
Mon May 5 23:51:33 CEST 2003


4 May 2003 (1382/2/13) Kabul, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan takes a 
major leap toward entering the age of digital communication with the 
release of an important report on Tuesday by a team of Afghan, 
Iranian and Irish computer experts and linguists. The document 
provides, for the first time, the comprehensive information needed by 
software programmers and vendors in order to bring this country's 
languages to life on computer keyboards and screens.

"This means that Afghan culture, ideas, innovations and thought can 
now be communicated via computer, unfiltered, in local Afghan 
languages," says Ercan Murat, UNDP Country Director for Afghanistan. 
"Afghanistan will benefit, but so will the world."

Until now, there has been virtually no way for the people of 
Afghanistan to communicate digitally in their own tongue. With no 
existing software to support the official languages, Pashto and Dari, 
the use of computers for communication has been effectively blocked, 
forcing most government and business offices to rely on typewriters.

The report, Computer Locale Requirements for Afghanistan, was 
commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and 
funded by the EU.  It focuses on an esoteric but important area of 
information technology: the multilingual character encoding and 
keyboard drivers.

"Unfortunately the big computer software providers who make fonts and 
software applications that, for instance, support Arabic, do not 
support the Afghan languages. This causes serious constraints and 
problems for all aspects of information technology for the entire 
country," says Michael Everson, project leader and consultant from 
Everson Typography of Dublin, Ireland. "This study will also help 
save existing information resources, to be shared and exchanged in 
the future. We will be urging software companies to ensure that 
Afghanistan's computing needs are met," Mr. Everson says.

"Language support includes inputting characters on a keyboard, 
displaying them on a screen, and printing the information. The 
alphabetical order in which data is expected to be sorted, date and 
time formatting, calendars, and other cultural-specific locale 
elements are also involved," explains Roozbeh Pournader, the study's 
specialist in Arabic-script implementations, from the FarsiWeb 
Project of Tehran, Iran.

Today less than three per cent of Kabul's population knows how to use 
a computer. In other regions the computer skills are close to zero. 
As Pashto and Dari are used by more than 80 per cent (19 million) of 
the Afghan population, computer software in these languages will help 
increase the computer skills of the Afghan people considerably, and 
be an important tool for human development in the country.

The study offers more information about Pashto and Dari than is 
currently available for other languages in the region such as Urdu 
and Persian, the official languages of Pakistan and Iran.  The study 
will be presented to members of the Unicode Consortium and to 
relevant companies such as Apple, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, and 
Sun. It will also be available online at

A press conference will be held at The Ministry of Communications in 
Kabul at 10:00 am on 6 May 2003.

For more information contact marc.lepage at in Kabul: +93 70 
280 871; nina.jorgensen at in Kabul: +93 70 27 95 20 or 
cherie.hart at in Bangkok: +662 288 2133.
Michael Everson * * Everson Typography *  *

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