UN helps translate Afghan languages onto digital highway

6 May 2003

Afghanistan takes a major step towards the age of digital communication today with the release of a United Nations-commissioned report providing for the first time comprehensive information needed by software programmers and vendors to bring the central Asian country's languages to life on computer keyboards and screens.

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

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

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

The report was drawn up by a team of Afghan, Iranian and Irish computer experts and linguists.