Language technology for humanitarian action

Up to four billion people globally face digital or language exclusion. Developing language technology for humanitarian and development use represents a significant opportunity to reduce exclusion across the aid sector and beyond:

  • For the many millions of marginalized language speakers globally, it could help overcome the risks and obstacles of digital services being in inaccessible languages and formats, open opportunities and bridge the digital divide.
  • For humanitarian and other service providers, it could ease tensions between the competing demands of inclusiveness and cost-effectiveness.
  • For governments and civil society, it could bring many millions more citizens into civic conversations and decision-making and expand the reach of social and economic initiatives.
  • For the private sector, including mobile network operators, it could mean providing better services to new and existing customers.

This brief proposes a collective approach to language technology development based on:

  • Identifying where language barriers prevent people from accessing a service they want to use.
  • Ensuring organizations understand concerns and risks related to a particular language, and hear from marginalized language speakers themselves on those issues.
  • Ensuring users’ consent is based on an understanding of what language technology is, how it could help them and how their language data will be used.
  • Involving language communities in decisions on the applications their language data is used to develop.
  • Identifying where language technology isn’t an appropriate or desired solution.

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CLEAR Global


Technology and Innovation