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Giacomo Mazzone at the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference


The impact of digitalisation on linguistic diversity, culture and employment is explored, focusing on discussions in both the European Parliament and Yaoundé, Cameroon. European concerns revolve around job security and rights violations resulting from AI integration, while in Africa there's a positive outlook on technological progress, despite infrastructure hurdles.


The notion of "meaningful access" underlines the importance of local content and languages in the digital transition. Tailored regional approaches to digitisation are advocated, prioritising the preservation of cultural heritage alongside technological progress, as underlined by GIACOMO MAZZONE, Secretary General of Euriovisioni and Member of the CICT-ICFT


READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW


“I am Giacomo Mazzone, secretary general of EUROVISIONI, a European think tank on media within the digital transformation, which gathers every year in Rome.
There is a trend to usually forget that one fundamental part of Human Rights concerns the right of each individual to use his own language, to communicate and receive communication through it, and to have his own culture shared with his community of origin. These rights are hard to recognize and to be exercised in the digital world, when global platforms only use some vehicular languages (mainly English) and interact with most of the languages and cultures mainly through artificial intelligence.
This new situation has emerged in the last decade and the more a country or a community becomes digital, the more this alienation from the roots of each citizen grows and expands. This problem is not only limited to LDC, but –in other forms- is starting to affect also developed countries.  Where the rapidly expanding range of A.I. applications is affecting more and more jobs, even in the creative sphere and in the intellectual jobs areas.  Exactly this phenomenon has been extensively discussed at a conference held at the European Parliament on February 14th that was dedicated to the impact of the A.I. on intellectual and creative works in the 27 countries of the European Union.
We put together in a room of the Parliament the MEPs who have worked on the A.I. Act (that is the largest and most complete attempt to regulate A.I. impact on society), together with the MEPs who have worked on the regulation of Gig’s economy on one side of the table. On the other side of the table, we invited the representatives of the scriptwriters, publishers, translators/interpreters, actors, journalists, and many other categories. To the professional representatives, we asked what they were expecting as the impact of AI on their activities and when this impact will be visible.
The worrying reply received on that occasion is that in most of the EU countries, the impact is already there. Actors are facing contracts where the producers ask them to hand over the rights to their image to the production companies. The same for the script-writers who are requested to leave all the rights and in perpetuity of their scripts to the producers. Journalists unions mentioned two cases in which journalists have been sacked to be replaced by A.I. apps that adapt their texts in other languages or add pictures to illustrate their text. One month later, the same discussions took place in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, in an event organized in partnership with UNESCO and the African Union of Broadcasting, focusing on media professions.
Cases and best practices were brought from many countries of the world: from Europe to Canada, from the US to various African countries, to show how AI apps could be used also in countries with small or reduced technological developments and even with reduced connectivity. Comparing the two settings of discussions, showed that the approach and the expectations were totally different. While in Europe the main reaction consisted of workers’ categories expressing concerns about the future of their work, of their remuneration, of their permanent jobs, in Africa the reactions (where already today there are no high expectations to get guarantees of fixed jobs and good salaries) were more positive and supportive. Many students attending the conference in Cameroon were curious to understand how this could impact their careers and most of them were positive and proactive.
The main concerns that were expressed there concerned the quality of the infrastructure the connectivity, and the capacity of the Universities to keep them updated with the new technologies and apps. Job losses were not the main cause of concern. On the contrary, African students were seeing this as an opportunity for them to be trained on the forefront of technology, and to be ready to start asap with these new skills and challenges.  One of the key concepts that emerged in Yaoundé was that even if politics will promote the adoption of AI within the training courses at the universities, before being able to transfer the advantages of AI to the rest of the population, there would be a global change of approach. The key concept mentioned in Cameroon was the one of “meaningful access”. Experience has proved that the speed of penetration of internet connections and all the related technologies is in priority linked to the availability of services and content in the local languages, possibly produced on-site and made available to the whole community.
In conclusion, these two experiences (in Europe and Africa) proved that there is a need to have different approaches to digital transformation for each region of the world, according to the local conditions and the availability of technologies, infrastructures, and connectivity. Not only that, but –at the same time- need to consider also the availability of local content, local traditions available in local languages, and local services that are meaningful for any given community. Infopoverty has to be considered in the years to come if could be useful to dedicate more attention to these aspects because, after economy and health, culture is probably the most important attractive factor to help the establishment of new technologies and their permanent adoption within any community. It is important not to forget that you can be “poor” in economic and technological terms, but you can also, at the same time, be rich in many other non-tangible “information” or goods: such as culture, language and tradition.”

The FINAL DECLARATION of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference will include the most relevant insights that emerged from the discussion and will include a list of projects and proposals suggested by the speakers.


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