Access to information and knowledge in one’s native language is a fundamental human right. It is a right deeply rooted in the legal systems of many Western nations where it is considered to be as important as access to healthcare or to other potentially life-saving services. While individuals often claim these rights for themselves, they do not always afford such rights to others, for there is often a cost involved in the realization of this right. This chapter highlights how denying this service, particularly as it relates to the translation and the localization of online materials, results in human costs including life threatening information poverty. This situation, in turn, requires urgent and coordinated relief efforts by industry, government, and civil societies on a global scale.
Bridging the know-do gap is the foremost challenge and opportunity for public health in the 21st century. -Ariel Pablos Mendez, Rockefeller Foundation
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. -Barack Obama
A Growing Divide
The effect of this denial of service in certain languages is the so-called language barrier. In reality, there has never been a language barrier. Rather, there is an access barrier (i.e., access to translation and localization services). This access barrier is lowered for people living in affluent, commercially attractive target markets because companies wish to access such markets in order to sell products and services in them. For this reason, organizations are willing to undertake the cost of localization (which generally includes the associated costs of translation), for such localization provides access to these affluent markets. While Norway, for example, has only 4 million inhabitants, most multinational organizations undertake the cost of localizing for Norwegian audiences. Such costs are considered acceptable, for the related cultural audience has a relatively high income and can purchase a range of products.