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WELSH LANGUAGE WILL BENEFIT FROM GROWTH IN NEW TECHNOLOGY SAYS E-MINISTER

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High tech communications, such as the internet and e-mail, should be used to support the growth of the Welsh langua...
High tech communications, such as the internet and e-mail, should be used to support the growth of the Welsh language and help to realise the national assembly's vision of a bilingual Wales, said assembly e-minister, Andrew Davies, during a visit to the National Eisteddfod at Denbigh.

Mr Davies was at the Eisteddfod to discuss how some of the key organisations in Wales, such as the WDA, ELWa and the Welsh Language Board, are promoting the use and uptake of ICT (Information Communication Technology).

Last month Mr Davies unveiled the Assembly Information Age Strategic Framework for Wales, which includes targets to increase the use and development of the Welsh language in the fast-growing world of new technology. The strategy recommends that the Welsh language should be integrated into all ICT policies and activities in Wales.

'The Welsh language may be one of Europe's oldest languages but it is a language of today and in order for it to grow and develop it is essential that it is part of this communication revolution, ' said Andrew Davies.

'ICT will have a key role to play in helping us to create a fully bilingual society in Wales. The technology offers great opportunity for Wales as it has the potential to bring people and communities together and help overcome the geographical barriers that sometimes divide us.'

Mr Davies said that new technology was helping to foster the use of the Welsh language in all kinds of new settings, such as in e-mail communication.

'For many Welsh speakers there has often been a gulf between the informal Welsh that they speak and the more formal written Welsh. E-mail has already created a new outlet for informal written conversations between Welsh speakers, wherever they are in the world, and it is increasingly used as a form of communication in Welsh between young people. This is only to the good and needs to be encouraged.'

Andrew Davies believes that the national assembly can play a leading role in raising the status of the Welsh language in respect to ICT to ensure that Welsh speakers, wherever they are in Wales, have equal access to technical support and materials in Welsh as well as English. He says that many bilingual and Welsh language ICT tools and facilities which are already available, such as Cysill and Cysgair, should be more widely publicised and promoted. As part of the assembly's ICT strategy a forum will be set up to drive forward key developments, such as agreeing national standards and a Welsh character keyboard.

Another priority of the strategy will be to encourage Welsh speakers to gain ICT skills and linked to this is the need to ensure that bilingual educational and training materials are readily available.

The assembly e-minister says he also recognises the need to raise the profile of Wales, Welsh culture and the Welsh language on the worldwide web. One way of achieving this is by making sure that the wealth of cultural and linguistic information about Wales is available on electronic format.

The assembly government also wants to see a key portal service for Wales developed which will create one main access point to the host of information and websites relating to Wales, and has set a target date for its launch by April 2002.

The National Assembly's Information Age Strategic Framework for Wales, Cymru Arlein - Online for a better Wales, can be accessed here.

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