The Story of OBDILCI

In 1995, during the Francophonie Summit in Cotonou (Benin), France’s President Chirac painted the Internet as a 100% English-speaking realm. At this period, Dr. Daniel Pimienta was an Internet evangelist with the Network & Development Foundation (FUNREDES) and he felt that affirmation to be wrong and not standing on proven data. In reaction, Pimienta decided to initiate a research effort aimed at measuring the prevalence of languages in the Internet. That project matured in 1998, with the help of Union Latine, developing a series of results until 2007. It went through a difficult path after 2007 and until 2017, when it was able to revive again standing in a new and promising approach allowing to extend the scope of languages processed.

Dr. Daniel Pimienta

Dr Daniel Pimienta reads Applied Mathematics and Computer Sciences in Nice (France). First a Telecommunication System Architect at IBM, he later launched FUNREDES, a pioneer research-action NGO in ICT4D and managed the World Network for Linguistic Diversity (MAAYA). He is currently responsible for OBDILCI, producing indicators on the presence of languages in the Internet.

Strengthening the Presence of Languages Online

Today, strategies for strengthening languages must focus primarily on cyberspace due to its powerful global impact. Whatever policy you develop in whatever field, you need meaningful, reliable and perennial indicators in order to define your strategy and be able to assess frequently the results of your actions, in order to adapt interventions accordingly. The indicators for such language policies in cyberspace have been characterised for too long by biased data, widely overestimating the reality of the presence of English and underestimating the part of multilingualism in the Internet, therefore demotivating the efforts for local content production. This misinformation needs to stop and we are glad we could help that way and empower all actions towards multilingualism in the Net.

Three Periods in ODBILCI’s History

The Observatory of the Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in the Internet was born in 1996 at FUNREDES and continues until today. In association with Union Latine, until 2005, then in association with the World  Network for Linguistic Diversity, MAAYA, from 2009. Two people have supported the project since its inception: Daniel Pimienta, President of FUNREDES and member of the Executive Board of MAAYA since 2009 (Executive Secretary in 2015-2016) and Daniel Prado, former Director of the Department of Language Industries, Union Latine (1997-2008) and member of the Executive Board of MAAYA since 2009 (Executive Secretary in 2013-2014). The Observatory has beneficiated, at different times, directly or indirectly via Union Latina or MAAYA, of the support of OIF, UNESCO and DGLFLF. Since 2017, FUNREDES has ceased its activities and Daniel Pimienta was managing the observatory on his own. In January 2021, the observatory, which remains a global project, recovered formal existence in France, as a 1901 law association.

The construction of the site of the observatory responds to three periods which each have a history and a substructure of their own:

Current Period: 2009-present

This period is marked by resigning from the initial methodology developed in the first period, and by the search for new ways to achieve the objective, either by a very ambitious collaborative research project which sought the support of the research programs of the European Union (DILINET), or by practical studies which have adopted new approaches taking account of the evolution of the Web and which have been applied mainly to French as well as Spanish and languages of France, before to be generalized in 2017 to the 140 languages of more than 5 million speakers.

Second Period: 2006-2008

This period gradually saw the decline of the method developed during the first period, following the changes that marked the Internet and concerned the size of the Web and the modus operandi of the search engines. In this period an effort was made to gather sources of information around the subject.

First Period: 1997-2005

This period presents the results and methods of a series of measurements of the place of Latin languages, English and German on the web, based on an original methodology based on the counting of a sample of keywords from the search engines and which is amply documented. The original website of this period is preserved and searchable online in its original structure, which gives access to 10 studies scaled in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2005. 

Projects by OBDILCI

  • Indicators for the Presence of Language in the Internet
  • The Languages of France in the Internet
  • French in the Internet
  • Portuguese in the Internet
  • Spanish in the Internet
  • AI and Multilingualism
  • and more…