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Re: International business communications and Unicode

From: Thierry Sourbier <webmaster@i18ngurus.com>
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 11:17:25 +0200
Message-ID: <012d01c12bb4$6ca75da0$1de2fea9@dell400>
To: <www-international@w3.org>
Emma,

> 1. Is Unicode the great salvation?  Could a business manager utilise this
> technology and build a website that would then be accessible to every
> country and culture without needing local content providers/ translators?
(
> is there a dummies guide?)

Unicode provides a standardized way of encoding textual data (i.e. associate
a unique number to every character). But if Unicode allows you to
unambigiously encode text in pretty much any language you want, it does
nothing to help you understand the text. Korean text will still be in Korean
wether or not it is Unicode encoded :). Unicode is by no mean some form of
Esperanto, and local content providers/translators are still much needed!!!

For more info check out:
http://www.unicode.org (offcial home of Unicode)
http://www.geocities.com/i18nguy/UnicodeBenefits.html (benefits of Unicode)
http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/library/u-secret.html (drawbacks of
Unicode)


> 2. Is there information on the Net about the impact of Unicode on global
> business communication, with a focus on the human beings who use it/ will
> use it rather than the technical elements?

I don't know about any specific research in that domain. Unicode is
certainly a great facilitator of multilingual communication and has been
adopted by many standards and platforms (XML, Java, Windows, etc...). Its
impact on non-techies human beings is I think mostly visible by linguistic
minorities. Unicode gives them almost the same ease than English speakers to
communicate using computers (before the lacks of standardization was making
things a bit more difficult). Unicode can be seen as a way to minimize the
"digital divide".

For techies Unicode usally means a lot less work and head aches when it
comes to handling several languages with the same piece of code :).

> 3. As the people creating and working with this technology every day, why
> would you think it was essential for future business/ communications
> managers to understand its scope and potential?

I think global business/communications managers should understand at least
at a high level the technical difficulties associated with multilingual
communication/computing. Unicode is a great help to resolve the "character
handling" part of them even if there is a lot of work left in the domain
(e.g. Look at the difficulties there are to allow foreign domain name, it
was discussed not so long ago on this list: thread "Extended Characters in
Server Names" started on August 10th and 21st).

I'm often surprised by the misconceptions that management (and many
technical folks) have of multilingual computing. They often think the only
problem is too get a few screens translated and that things will work...

The mailing list archive can be found at:
http://www.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-international/
My site (link below) may also contain some good pointers for you on the
various internationalization issues even it is mostly geared torward
technical people.

Cheers,
Thierry

------------------
www.i18ngurus.com - Open Internationalization Resources Directory.
Received on Thursday, 23 August 2001 05:12:03 GMT

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