Multilingual social media to boost digital inclusion

Features that enable real-time translation between native languages ​​can empower users in India. It’s been more than two decades since social media entered our lives – connecting us with high school pals and happily de-privatizing

Features that enable real-time translation between native languages ​​can empower users in India.

It’s been more than two decades since social media entered our lives – connecting us with high school pals and happily de-privatizing lifestyles. Over the years, the impact of social media on our daily lives has been phenomenal, with global internet users spending an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes on social platforms per day, making it a powerful means of self-expression. digital age. . Speaking specifically about India, 658 million is the number of internet users in the country in 2022, which is about 47% of the total population of India.

Even though the expression has moved online, establishing a digital connection between (mostly) English speakers around the world, the need to express oneself freely in a language closest to us – our mother tongue – continues to exist. This is something that people express best in their mother tongue. Users are looking for experiences on social media where they can engage with people who speak the same language, interact with their language communities, on topics of regional, local or national importance, and without needing to have their message translated into English. The journey of exploration, communication and expression is best achieved in the user’s native language.

However, despite its global reach, social media has remained largely out of reach for internet users who speak one or more native languages. This includes 80% of the world and 90% of the Indian population who speak a native language. People who are not fluent in English but are tech savvy and otherwise exploit the internet to make purchases or transact, are hesitant to join social platforms where conversations and expression are largely focused on English. Native speakers often feel alienated on platforms designed in the West for English audiences.

To harness social media for the public good, it is imperative to empower every internet user, whether they speak English or any other language. This is especially true for India, where nine out of ten new internet users speak a native language. Therefore, platforms designed for multilingual conversations are the need of the hour.

A language-focused approach to foster empowerment

Language can no longer be an obstacle in a world undergoing digital transformation. And the expression – which is inherent to us as humans – cannot be the privilege of English speakers.

A world that speaks several languages ​​needs social platforms that allow everyone to express themselves freely on any subject of their choice, and in a language of comfort. Internet users who have hitherto been reluctant to experience social media due to the English-centric design of global platforms, should feel empowered to explore the domain, interact and hold meaningful conversations. with like-minded people, as well as with users who speak another language. Language.

Allowing expression in a native language is one aspect of digital empowerment. It is equally important to facilitate seamless interaction between speakers of two distinct languages. Social media should evolve into a channel that brings people from different cultures together, bridges the language gap, and becomes the leveler for all forms of digital conversations.

This is especially crucial in India, where people from different geographies and linguistic backgrounds may wish to connect with each other to carry on conversations on topics of common interest. A native Punjabi or Gujarati speaker might want to chat with a Tamil or Telugu speaker to discuss cricket or movies, or to celebrate a festival, or just to “discover” and “connect”.

So features that enable real-time translation between native languages, allowing creators and users to create and consume content in their respective native languages, can spark excitement and take digital empowerment to a whole new level. level. Such features can also induce user gratification and increase time spent on platforms.

Technology for Inclusion

As a country that speaks 22 official languages ​​and over 6,000 dialects, innovative language-focused products that deliver an immersive, hyperlocal experience are the way to go. A digital world where every internet user will feel empowered to explore, express and converse freely. Supported by disruptive technologies like NLP (Natural Language Processing) that decode human language, products that understand the nuances and ethos of multilingual and multicultural societies will take shape in India and offer solutions that can be adapted anywhere in the no – English speaking world.

India’s ‘inclusive’ approach to multilingual social media will champion digital empowerment and democratize the voice of billions of people in this ‘techade’.

(Aprameya Radhakrishna is the co-founder and CEO of Koo)

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