The gap in language data
Because there is very little information available about what languages people speak and understand,
humanitarians and other global communicators often assume that using the former colonial language is “good enough.”
Yet, in our research in places like Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria, we’ve seen that
using the nearest majority language does not reach everyone. People are often left feeling like they don’t have
enough information to make the right choices for themselves and their families.
This approach compounds other factors of vulnerability. Women, older people, people with disabilities, and
people with lower education levels are less likely to speak the languages used by international organizations.
This leaves them with less information, less able to share their concerns and priorities, and dependent on others
in their community for communication.
And a lack of awareness about the need to consider language in global communication often leads to language
and communication technology being under-funded and under-resourced.
This leaves millions of people without the information they need, and perpetuates a system that doesn’t listen to
and consider the needs of people who speak languages with less power. We plan to change this, and we need