Press Release: Afghan language
everson at evertype.com
Mon May 5 23:51:33 CEST 2003
AFGHANS BEAT KEY OBSTACLE TO ENTERING DIGITAL AGE
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
"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 undp.org in Kabul: +93 70
280 871; nina.jorgensen at undp.org in Kabul: +93 70 27 95 20 or
cherie.hart at undp.org in Bangkok: +662 288 2133.
Michael Everson * * Everson Typography * * http://www.evertype.com
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