How a new EU eContent program can help you

Last week, the European Parliament voted in favor of the E-Contentplus program, set to support the development of multilingual content for innovative, on-line services across the EU. The budget will be about €149m for the 2005 to 2008 period. Program focus will be on improving the accessibility and usability of geographical information, cultural content and educational material in a large multilingual/multicultural marketplace. The underlying agenda is to boost broadband take up in Europe by making content better networked, more easily localizable and hence more attractive. Anyone interested in joining in had better bookmark this site and track developments.

The current eContent program (with a budget of only € 100 million) has funded market-seeding projects for access to public sector information, innovating production in multilingual/cultural environments, and facilitating the digital content marketplace (rights management). You can find out about them here. In the field of multilingual production, they cover such topics as subtitling systems (eTitle ) and ontology building for sharing legal information (LOIS).

These projects act as test beds for technology solutions, with a group of organizations working together on a real-world response that will eventually convert into a commercial service. In other words, the European Commission provides you with development money to grab a potential business opportunity.

Since this is public money, there should be more pooling of knowledge derived from these projects. For example, most of the translation and localization problems are solved in sui generis ways. There might be more interest in such programs if terminology, translation memory and other resources developed in these projects had to meet reasonable exchange standards, for example, so that some of the assets lived beyond the project in a collective way.

It is also nearly impossible to get any serious (i.e. drilling down below the usually thin website content) information about

(a) how the project went (intangibles such as what was learnt and shareable, what proved particularly problematic, what interesting ideas the whole effort spun off) and

(b) what happens to the tangible results.

When projects (such as eTitle) are packing in translation automation technology, speech recognition technology and the like, it would be good to seriously raise the learning level for the whole community by auditing these projects and providing feedback to the sector stakeholders rather than just to the Commission.

One solution would be to demand that a project Wikipedia be created, summarizing technical knowledge about the project in a semi-canonical form. Another is to develop a (possibly collective) project blog to make the work more responsive to their respective latent communities. There is naturally no need to reveal everything in the kitchen cupboard. But avoiding duplication, pushing the technology envelope and leveraging the existing infrastructure strike me as being basic desiderata for such projects.

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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