English has prevailed as both the accepted language of commerce and as a dominant language on the Internet. But vast numbers of non-English speaking web users are demanding that the Internet become truly internationalised. That presents an opportunity for innovators able to span cultural divides with enabling technologies.
My mate Dave Moskowitz always has a few interesting web based projects on the boil whenever we chat. So I was pleased to hear that the online Maori dictionary for speakers of Te Reo has finally come to fruition after much hard work. The project also complements the excellent English-Maori online dictionary and language resource kete provided by Te Whanake.
Significantly, the collaborative open source tool set used to develop the lexicography is now to be deployed in other settings globally. Apart from projects involving translation of Hawaiian and Burmese Karen into English there is an intriguing local project involving research and preservation of Maori legal documents dating from the 19th Century. No doubt there will be a steady stream of enquiries once word circulates about this unique platform. The timing could not have been better, with the recent launch of the Maori version of Google.
As the Internet becomes more and more pervasive, there is a risk of imposing a dull monoculture on its users, particularly on indigenous peoples. And with the increasing affluence of non-English speaking regions such as the Middle East and Asia, the demand for translation tools and non-English web content must surely grow exponentially. Platforms developed in multicultural New Zealand are well positioned to take advantage of this growth and to encourage diversity on the Web.
It was a defining moment last week when ideegeo took up residency and became a foundation member at Altspace in downtown Wellington. Not a moment too soon. There has been a surge of progress, with our European partner company suddenly in a position to provide a steady stream of consultancy work. More importantly my CTO and his long-suffering (but very understanding) lady were getting heartily sick of us running the business out of their spare bedroom.
Altspace is a shared workspace for start-up companies and independent contractors, providing a communal office site complete with power, Internet and furnishings plus access to a kitchenette and toilets. Being centrally located it is handy for both casual day trippers and long term users who need a base for business. Altspace director Steven Heath will be on hand at the Geeks, Games and Gadgets ’08 expo to talk about the venue which he also hopes to make available to local I.T. user groups.
I will miss the view out the bedroom window however. On our first day of working together there was a pod of Orca playing in the shallows of the South Coast right below us. I took that as a good omen.