Zimbabwe reads promotes Tshwao, unrecorded language of under 50 speakers. Just not yet through e-books on Amazon

There are still 4.4bn people not online, according to the International Telecommunication Union’s Measuring the Information Society report.

2013 Measuring the Information Society report by ITU
2013 Measuring the Information Society report by ITU

Rob Minto of the Financial Times dwells on the reminder from ITU that for all the talk about the global internet, and how emerging economies are getting online, there is still a huge gap between the developed and developing world when it comes to internet usage.

Our partner initiative Zimbabwe Reads is working together with the African Languages Research Institute at the University of Zimbabwe to promote Tshwao, an unrecorded language spoken by a small group of people in western part of Zimbabwe, on the border with Botswana. And the internet is not the solution to the problem here.

Tshwao, a type of Khoisan language (mistakenly called Koisan in the new Constitution), is currently spoken by only a few dozen of the estimated 2,000 San people residing in Matabeleland North’s Tsholotsho district.

The team is working on an orthography now and hopes to have some basic children’s materials available by the end of the year.

The community of Tshwao-speakers is so poor that they need food grants to survive (and the area is poorly served by phone service). Digital solutions that  pioneered with Shona literature by Bhabhu Books aren’t yet appropriate in the case of Tshwao.

As the ITU report states:

With 53 per cent of the population in developing countries living in rural areas, the infrastructure challenge to connect all of these people to high-speed Internet is enormous.

Half of the African countries in the study had broadband prices equivalent to over 40 per cent of GNI per capita.

See related:

Making sure that Zimbabwe Reads

Making sure that Zimbabwe reads II: from Boston via Beira to Harare

Zimbabweans put indigenous readers onto Amazon

The perks of traveling by rail in Zimbabwe, if any

Africa story wars: Two black female cultural leaders discuss the importance of narrating Africa-sourced stories

Steppes in Figures #6: 2013 Global Infrastructure, Transportation, Tourism, Inequality within the United Nations, Global Entertainment and Universal Convergence

Culture Fund concludes: Zimbabwean cultural industries are challenged by lack of research. Steppes in Sync suggests: go beyond Harare asap, watch Zimbabwe reads do the trick with Nambya and Kalanga communities

Being blind in Zimbabwe in a global digital age

Digitalizing religious discourse in Zimbabwe

How culture contributes to development: an UNESCO indicator suite

Fast readers of Ethiopia or Addis’ avid culture of newspaper reading

Bittersweet taste of soft power: North Korea’s flirting with tourism


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