We Need Footings to Build the Future

We Need Footings to Build the Future

21 janvier 2023 0 Par Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann

Author: Alexandra Konakova,Deputy Editor-in-Chief – Executive Secretary of the Modern Library Magazine, Russia : The original article in Russian published here: https://modern-lib.ru/assets/upload/2022-8/Konakova_8_2022.pdf

“When streams are merge – there are rivers, when people unite – there is power” says one folk proverb. “The river, although stormy, flows in the banks, people, although there are many of them, live according to the laws,” says another. Over its centuries-old history, humanity hasn’t once experienced turbulent times, faced many challenges, but each time it managed to survive due to the wisdom and solidarity of people, their ability to set rules and follow them.

This year has been a very difficult one. The uneasy geopolitical and economic situation has affected all aspects of life, from the activities of international communities to the way of living. Therefore, it could be considered as a good sign that experts from different parts of the world met to discuss the most pressing problems of our time and jointly try to find their solution exactly on the banks of the great river Irtysh, which flows through the territory of three countries and feeds many peoples.

Floating chapel-lighthouse at the confluence of the rivers Irtysh and Ob. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

From June 7 to 9 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russian Federation, in the framework of the UNESCO Information for All Programme and XIII International IT Forum, the IV International Conference « Tangible and Intangible Impact of Information and Communication in the Digital Age » took place. It was held in a hybrid offline and online format, about 100 experts from 35 countries became participants.

FOR REFERENCE

The conference was organized by the Government of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra; the Ministry of Digital Development, Telecommunications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation; the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO; the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme; the Interregional Library Cooperation Center.

“In my opinion, the Intergovernmental Programme ‘Information for All’ is one of the main UNESCO programs in the field of communication and information, – Natalia Komarova, Governor of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra, emphasized at the opening of the conference. And we are in solidarity with its main mission – building a world in which all people have equal access to information and knowledge, where everyone has the opportunities and necessary skills to receive and use information, expand their rights on this basis, actively participate in society development. The main wealth accumulated by mankind, which has to be preserved and diversified, is the uniqueness of each community and every person… It is the person who should be at the center of setting all tasks and solutions”.

Sergey Bakeykin and Natalia Komarova. Photo: Press Service of the Governor of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra

Speaking about the difficulties of organizing a meeting in the context of a global sociocultural, economic and political crisis, Evgeny Kuzmin, Chair of the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme, President of the Interregional Library Cooperation Center, Vice-Chair of the IFAP Intergovernmental Council and Chair of the UNESCO/IFAP Working Group on the Preservation of Languages and the Development of Multilingualism in Cyberspace (Russian Federation), noted: “Many of the activists who today make up the UNESCO Intergovernmental Information for All Programme around the world would like to come this year to Khanty-Mansiysk, and even already bought tickets, but then these flights were canceled, the duration of flights increased, someone was not allowed to come by their superiors. Nevertheless, we see that great interest in the conference is shown all over the world in many major universities, national commissions of UNESCO, and various organizations. Despite the losses, we have participants from 35 countries. By all international standards, this is a very large conference, especially today, at a time of geopolitical instability. We have prepared a very interesting, rich, varied professional program. Many issues that concern the world will be discussed during the conference, and we have to contribute to finding answers to these questions”.

FOR REFERENCE

Greetings to the participants were sent by: Natalia Komarova, Governor of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra (Russian Federation); Dorothy Gordon, Chair of the Intergovernmental Council of the UNESCO Information for All Program (IFAP), Chair of the UNESCO/IFAP Working Group for Media and Information Literacy, Board Member of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (Ghana); Evgeny Kuzmin, Chair of the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme, President of the Interregional Library Cooperation Center, Vice-Chair of the IFAP Intergovernmental Council and Chair of the UNESCO/IFAP Working Group on the Preservation of Languages and the Development of Multilingualism in Cyberspace (Russian Federation); Konstantin Emelin, First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (Russian Federation); Lesley Akyaa Opoku-Ware,Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ghana to the Russian Federation; Johanna Rose Mamiaka,Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Gabon to the Russian Federation; Mohamed Yongawo,Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the Russian Federation; Anicet Gabriel Kotchofa,ex-Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the Russian Federation and the Commonwealth of Independent States, High Commissioner of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) for International Cooperation – Deputy Secretary General of the EAEU, Director General of the International Coordinating Council of Educational Institutions Alumni;Louis Rodriguez,Counselor of the Embassy of the Republic of Dominican in the Russian Federation.

The forum program included a plenary session “ICT and New Information Environment: Explicit and Implicit Actors, Goals and Interests”, sections “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Threats for Psychological Security”, “Digital Civilization: Building New Ethics, Identity, Competency”, “Digital Civilization: Info-Conceptual and Socio-Technological Dimensions”, “Man and the New Information Environment: Challenges of Comprehension and Adaptation”, “ICT in Various Sectors: Trends and Challenges”, “ICT in Politics and Culture”, “Access to Information, Education and Human Capacity Building: Challenges and Solutions”, as well as a special session “Multilingualism in the Digital World: Present and Future”.

What is the new information reality at the global level? According to Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann, president of the “Eurocontinent”, lecturer of the University Jean Moulin, Lyon III (France), today the world is faced with increasing geopolitical fragmentation, multiplication of actors and changes in previous geopolitical hierarchies. At the same time artificial intelligence technologies (AI) can be used to influence the balance of power, to give some actors an advantage in such spatial dimensions as land, air, sea, space, cyberspace, and the cognitive sphere. All this could eventually lead to the emergence of “digital empires” and destabilization of the world order. We are already seeing the beginning of this era with the impotence of such multilateral bodies as the UN, the European Union, NATO and the OSCE.

We know firsthand what information warfare is, but recently experts have introduced a new term – cognitive warfare, which poses an even greater threat. Unlike information warfare, its objective is not to influence what people think, but the way in which they think. In the speaker’s words, it could potentially transform a whole nation into a colony of third state or disrupt it completely. This threat is possible due to the scientific progress that has been made in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science, combined with artificial intelligence, big data and the increasing dependence of populations on the digital space (Internet, social networks).

Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann. Photo: Donat Sorokin, TASS

Dorothy Gordon, Chair of the Intergovernmental Council of the UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP), Chair of the UNESCO/IFAP Working Group for Media and Information Literacy, Board Member of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (Ghana) spoke about the danger of the weaponization of technologies. When UNESCO was debating the Recommendation on the humanistic approach to the artificial intelligence with its Member States, they made it very clear that they don’t want weaponizing of AI. They won’t allow autonomous weapons that kill people without human agent interfering. It is not a missile should decide where it will target. Some countries have already outlawed such weapons. However, UNESCO’s recommendation is not the law, and it’s a voluntarily decision whether to accept and implement it or not.

Dorothy Gordon. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

Meanwhile, in the race to technological sovereignty, global investment in AI, including military sphere, is growing dynamically, and international legislation and diplomacy cannot keep up with all the innovations. According to Fatima Roumate, Professor, President of the International Institute for Scientific Research, founder of the Global Network on Artificial Intelligence and International Institute GNAI&IS (Morocco), this process extends to other fields such as science, education, culture and media, which are one of the most important pillars of soft power. Given their influence on international and national security, AI-enhanced media could become a new weapon in psychological warfare, aiding the manipulation of public opinion. AI makes it possible to analyze human behavior, moods and beliefs based on available data and create agendas with a specific goal or influence social media content. The malicious use of these technologies can lead to the most negative consequences.

COVID-19 has accelerated the employment of artificial intelligence in education, science and culture. As the professor said, the emergence of e-learning and the appearance of the new kind of cultural colonialism linked to AI’s impact on cultural diversity and indigenous languages is the first reason which pushes this field to the top of foreign affairs priorities. The second reason is that protection and promotion of cultural identity are conditioning а state’s right to existence. Education, science, and culture are the only way to ensure human resources adapted to the new employment market and able to face all challenges linked to the data sovereignty.

Evgeny Pashentsev, Professor, Leading Researcher at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Coordinator of the International Research Group on Threats for International Psychological Security by Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence (Russian Federation), in turn noted that the large-scale malicious use of AI on the national and global levels is happening today in the form of disinformation campaigns. This is linked with quantitative and qualitative changes in the traditional mechanisms for the production, delivery and management of information, new opportunities for psychological impact on people, as well as conducting information and psychological confrontation.

He gave examples of realistic emotional AI that can compete with humans. For instance, these are products of Ziva Dynamics, a leader in sophisticated simulation and deformation, machine learning, and real-time character creation: https://clck.ru/32F4Ct. Another case in point is the study by Dr Sophie Nightingale from Lancaster University in the UK and Professor Hany Farid from the University of California, Berkeley. They asked participants to distinguish images of real people’s faces from those synthesized by the generative adversarial network StyleGAN2, as well as to say which people on the screen seemed more likeable and trustworthy. It turned out that synthesized faces arouse an average of 7.7% more trust than real ones. And it makes us think.

Darya Bazarkina and Evgeny Pashentsev. Photo: Vladislav Burnashev, Ugra-Expo

In the wrong hands, artificial intelligence can cause a lot of trouble. In order to promote, recruit and seek funding, terrorist organizations are actively use new encryption tools, cryptocurrencies, darknet operations, social engineering tools (psychological manipulation of people in order to perform certain actions or disclose confidentialinformation), etc. This was told by Darya Bazarkina, the Leading Researcher of the Department of European Integration Research, Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences (Russian Federation). In 2015, ISIL, banned in Russia, launched thousands of bots on Twitter to raise funds, recruit, distribute instructions, and coordinate its fighters. In March 2021, an Al-Qaeda-linked group set up on Telegram a search for people with attainments in information and hacking to use their skills for its own purposes.

Terrorist propaganda in the European Union is aimed at encouraging people to commit terrorist acts in their places of residence. For that, recruiters actively use elements of social engineering, finding out the weak points of those they want to attract, and offering what these people lack – attention, family, the meaning of life, etc.

To minimize all these risks, participants of the conference proposed to develop ethical standards for the use of artificial intelligence, implant AI technologies to strengthen international relations instead of destroying them, create new international, regional and national strategies, update international legislation, reconsider the activities of international institutions, organize cooperative work of governments and multinational corporations in order to build a digital environment that ensures the protection, transparency and reliability of data.

For example, Anna Bychkova, Head of the Department of Scientific Research of the Irkutsk Institute (branch) of the All-Russian State University of Justice (Russian Federation), emphasized that the time for protecting information and psychological security by appealing to ethical norms has passed, now is the time for the norms of law, however, legal norms should inherit by ethical ones.

Awareness of the risks connected with using AI in a number of countries has already led to the development of appropriate ethical standards, but approaches are differing. Thus, the Russian Codex of Ethics in the field of AI is positioned as a recommendatory act that establishes the general principles of its behavior. China, on the contrary, considers ethics in conjunction with legislation and regulation, aiming to create artificial intelligence that people will trust.

Great job has been done by the international community. In 2021 at the General Conference of UNESCO the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence was adopted. In turn, Russia in 2011 proposed for discussion the draft Concept of the United Nations Convention on International Information Security (it was updated 10 years later), and in 2021 developed a narrower draft of the UN Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purposes.

“Thus, Russia became the first country to submit to the UN Special Committee a draft universal convention on countering information crime. Undoubtedly, this is an important step towards the improvement of information and psychological security in general through particular cases of countering cybercrime. But in order to overcome the threats to international information security (and psychological security as an important part of it), it is extremely important to return to the discussion of the Concept of the UN Convention on International Information Security,” – Anna Bychkova convinced.

At the opening of the conference. Photo: Kirill Merkuriev, TASS

Let’s move from the geopolitical dimension to the regional one. In which way information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics affect various aspects of life in different countries? What challenges and threats do they pose to society? What are their possible consequences? These and other questions were considered by the participants at the sections “ICT in Various Sectors: Trends and Challenges”, “ICT in Politics and Culture”, “Man and the New Information Environment: Challenges of Comprehension and Adaptation”.

To what extend the adult population in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania trust the Internet? Arpad Rab, a Senior Researcher at the Institute of the Information Society, University of Public Service (Hungary), shared the results of the relevant study.

Vitali Romanovsky, Senior Adviser of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (Belarus), related that social networks and the media in African states are often used for political propaganda and disinformation. Thus, he cited data of the National Democratic Institute, according to which, cases of falsification and dissemination of fake news were registered in 32 electoral campaigns that took place in African countries from January 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021.

Hellen Amunga, Lecturer at the University of Nairobi (Kenya), gave examples of how the use of ICT helps to preserve the African cultural heritage.

The report of Therese Patricia San Diego, Director of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, Faculty Member at the Miriam College (Philippines), was devoted to the use of media and information literacy to increase youth civic engagement in the 2022 Philippine elections.

Taiane Oliveira, Professor at the Fluminense Federal University (Brazil), introduced the specifics of AI regulation in her region.

Anuradha Kanniganty, a Researcher at the International Foundation for Human Development (India), told how increased access to information and communication in Indian languages affects the employment structure in the country.

Anuradha Kanniganty. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

Changes in the labor market were also touched in the speechof Susana Finquelievich, Principal Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), Director of the Research Program on Information Societies at the Institute Gino Germani, University of Buenos Aires (Argentina). She considered the following questions: Will jobs disappear with the arrival of robots in Latin America? How technological transformation will affect the structure of employment? How can workers prepare and adapt for the 4th industrial revolution? How should the education system change to make young people successful in the new labor market?

To think about the dangers of neurotechnologies urged Cordell Green, Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (Jamaica). Experiments with implantable brain chips and transgenic engineering not only increase mental and physical abilities, but also make it possible to read brain waves. Neuromarketing methods are already being used to measure consumer preferences. Moreover, they are able not only to determine the mental preferences of people, but to initiate, imprint or trigger these preferences. Content is now deliberately designed to bypass our rational defenses. All this raises certain ethical and regulatory concerns.

“Let us consider, for a moment, a possible scenario in a society which is increasingly accommodating of ‘synthetic’ experiences and relations, through technologies such as AI, embodied computing and the metaverse. Could the time come when embodied computing devices, based on neurotechnology, genetics and AI, are applied so unethically as to create a new generation of people in servitude and in the worst cases outright slavery? Should we allow such capabilities with potential to treat people in that way and relegate them to a position of subservience? », – the expert ponders.

He is particularly concerned about the situation associated with the introduction of technologies in the labor market: “Perhaps the least talked about, insidious aspect of the information revolution is the threat to decent work. This is not through the usual lens of intelligent machines replacing human labor but the role of human beings as digital scavengers or euphemistically content moderators. The digital revolution is not only about the glittery projections of venture capitalists, engineers and shiny, smart devices but also the gritty side of shadowy employment of poor and vulnerable people, as digital janitors who scrub digital filth from the internet; a modern-day version of picking cotton and cutting sugar cane, jobs reserved for people of a certain hue. »

The influence of digital technologies on our private lives is also great. According to Alfredo Ronchi, Secretary of the EC MEDICI, Professor at the Polytechnic University of Milan (Italy), we live in a world where AI is increasingly penetrating into all aspects of everyday life. There are countless sensor-based devices and smart objects all around us: smart cars; home assistant appliances like Alexa; phones; wearable devices – smart watches, bracelets, etc. And all of them are constantly collecting data, which makes the concept of privacy more and more ephemeral.

At the top of the screen is Siva Prasad Rambhatla, Honorary Professor of University of Hyderabad (India), at the bottom of the screen is Alfredo Ronchi. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

When it comes to confidentiality and protecting personal information, many people wave it aside, saying they have nothing to hide. Meanwhile, data leakage can lead not only to intrusive advertising, spam, nudging and other manipulations, but also to threats to personal and financial security – bullying, fraud, involvement in extremist organizations, etc.

Speaking about manipulation, Alfredo Ronchi mentioned such a new trend as the Internet of Behaviors (IoB), which was born as a result of the merger of big data analytics and behavioral psychology. Companies collect our digital footprints – information about online activity, smart device data, etc., and get the opportunity to influence our behavior, for example, inducing us to purchase certain products or use services. And here a number of ethical and legal problems arise: How far can technology go in manipulating people? Who will protect citizens from the misuse of this potentially powerful tool that could be turned into a weapon?

One of the phenomena of social life that migrated to the digital environment following the development of technology are public trials. Alice Lee, Professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University (Hong Kong, China) spoke on this topic. Originally it was a legal concept describing the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt or innocence before or after a verdict in a court of law. The widespread use of the internet has brought this phenomenon online. As a rule, such trials are arranged to achieve social justice, expose corruption, crime, wrongdoing, inappropriate behavior, etc. However, if the accusations are unfair and groundless, their target becomes a victim of cyberbullying. This can negatively impact the behavioral and emotional health of adolescents and young adults.

Internet public trials usually go hand in hand with doxing and human flesh search, revealing personal information about a subject. How it occurs? Someone puts up a post on a social network or Internet discussion forum, or sets up a WhatsApp group to criticize someone, describe a person’s fault and then asks people to share and give “likes », in order to incite others to blame the person.

It is necessary to explain to young people that such trials are a double-edged sword. A distinction must be made between public trials, which function as a mechanism for justice, and those that use intimidation tactics. To do this, a person can ask himself the following questions: Under what circumstances the end (a public trial in the name of justice) justify the means (violation of a person’s presumed moral right to privacy)? Who makes an accusation and for what reason? Is there any verification? What kind of social justice has been achieved? If a person just makes a silly mistake, does he deserve to be brutally deprived of dignity?

Alice Lee gave several examples of such trials. Thus, Hong Kong subway trains have priority seats. Many of the young passengers who occupied them were recorded by witnesses on videos, which then ended up on YouTube and Internet forums. Young people were blamed for not offering seats to the elderly. As a result, in order to escape online public trials, the last stopped taking vacant seats even if they are very tired or feel unwell.

At the conference. Photo: Vladislav Burnashev, Ugra-Expo

Another example is from Europe. A teenage girl has been criticized for smiling in a selfie taken at the Auschwitz concentration camp. She explained that she went there after the death of her father, who had long dreamed of taking this trip with her, and smiled because she was glad to finally fulfill his dream, and not out of disrespect for the victims of the Holocaust. Despite the explanation, the teenager was subjected to large-scale bullying, as a result of which she became depressed.

To avoid such situations, young people should be taught media literacy, including selfie guidelines. They have to learn what kind of pictures shouldn’t be taken at a funeral; by standing next to a homeless person; visiting the place where the tragedy happened, etc. The following tips will help them respond correctly to public trials and cyberbullying: stay calm; don’t retaliate; demand to delete the post; take a screenshot of it to keep records; ask for help; if someone you know is being bullied, offer assistance. In addition, young people should be aware of the digital footprints they leave online, think carefully about their opinions before expressing them online, and pay attention to their behavior on the Internet.

The quality of the content is also of great concern to the participants of the conference. And this applies not only to the spread of fake news and unreliable information. For example, Johanna Rose Mamiaka, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Gabon to the Russian Federation, noted that, on the one hand, information technologies allow us to deliver education, science and culture to the remotest corners of the world, but on the other hand, today we can see a shortage of high-quality educational content. “Who decides what content we receive not only in education, but through all the channels of communication that exist in the world?– she asks. – It seems that this content, be it social, political, economic, is being imposed on us. But not the content should determine the person, but the person should determine the content. As a citizen and mother, I want to know what information my children will see on the Internet. Let’s make sure that the content we consume is not forced on us. We must teach our children in the way we consider appropriate, set up those barriers and restrictions we find reasonable, because that’s what freedom is all about. »

Johanna Rose Mamiaka. Photo: Donat Sorokin, TASS

Modern technologies make our lives much easier, allowing us to receive public services online. But how flawlessly do these systems work? Ekaterina Potapova, Academic Director of the Training Center for Digital Transformation Leaders and Teams, Higher School of Public Administration of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (Russian Federation), has told, what does the state put at stake allowing algorithms to make decisions on social issues.

Ekaterina Potapova. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

In the UK, failures in electronic systems lead to the fact that people face incorrectly charged off debts and utility bills. It takes months to process an application in the social security system. And before that, the application must be submitted online, which becomes a problem for many elderly or disabled people and immigrants.

In Denmark, algorithms are used to identify children at risk of abuse. The system takes into account such facts as missed visits to doctors, complaints about children from educational institutions, information about the financial situation of parents, etc. As a result, “lists of suspects” are created, and people do not even know that they were included there. This can lead to proactive interference in family affairs, separation of parents and children, and eviction from home.

To avoid these and a number of other problems, Ekaterina Potapova proposes to take certain measures, such as: be sure to leave analog ways to provide a service for people who do not have computer skills; create an adequate support line and feedback system that a person can contact if he has any questions or problems; assign specific employees responsible for the service; fight the prenotions of algorithms, use them only to make positive decisions for citizens, and in case of refusal to pay or reduce the amount of rights, leave the final decision for a human being; improve information security and fraud protection measures, etc.

In Russia the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra is one of the leaders in the use of ICT to improve the quality of life of the population. Galina Mikhailova, Deputy Director of the Department of Information Technologies and Digital Development of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra (Russian Federation) introduced the audience to one of such projects – “IT Nomad Camp”. Through this project, about 3,000 representatives of indigenous people, who live in 145 remote corners of the region, gained access to the Internet. During on-site trainings, adapted to the level of students, they were taught how to use a computer and the Internet and provided laptops for their own. From among the active residents of the nomad camps were prepared digital curators so that they would organize courses for fellow villagers on such topics as safe work on the Internet, public services, the basics of web design for youth, etc.

Galina Mikhailova. Photo: Vladislav Burnashev, Ugra-Expo
Larisa Tsulaya. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

Larisa Tsulaya, Head of the Division of Digital Transformation and Innovation in Education, Department of Education and Science of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Ugra (Russian Federation) presented another project – “Nomad Camp School and Kindergarten”. Usually, when children from families of indigenous peoples living in nomad camps reach senior preschool age, they are sent to a boarding school to prepare for subsequent education, and they can only visit home during the holidays. Of course, separation from parents, an unusual environment, a different language, a new way of life hurts child’s psyche system. To avoid this and help the kids to adapt, the project “Nomad Camp School and Kindergarten” was proposed.

Pupils of the Nomad Camp School and Kindergarten. Photo: https://khanty-yasang.ru

This is a specially designed program where children learn the necessary skills, get used to the schedule, lessons, get acquainted with school life without leaving their native nomad camp. They are also engaged in active exercises, including playing national games, which not only develop physical fitness, but also introduce them to local traditions. Much attention is paid to socialization in order to help kids successfully adapt in a city that is very different from a nomad camp. The teachers are the parents themselves. They receive the necessary training, enrolled in the school staff and get a salary for their work. The approbation of the project was successful, so it was decided to extend it and leave the children in the nomad camps to study under the first grade program.

A special session of the conference – “Multilingualism in the Digital World: Present and Future” – was commemorates the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, which started this year. Evgeny Kuzmin shared his thoughts on what we expect from this decade, and what the contribution of Russia and the UNESCO Information for All Programme can be. He noted that one of the problems of preserving languages is the passive attitude of their speakers. We have to encourage people to read and communicate in their native language, support their traditions, art, folklore, preserve cultural heritage in libraries, archives, museums, and develop scientific activities. Modern language technologies can be of great help in this.

Evgeny Kuzmin remineded that there are 260 languages and dialects in Russia, more than 100 indigenous languages, and almost all of them are written. The languages of study are 74 out of 100 languages, the languages of instruction, including universities, are 23 languages. Russian universities train specialists and researchers of indigenous languages. The State Program for the Development and Support of Literature of Indigenous Peoples has been adopted in the country, within the framework of which an Anthology of Modern Poetry, an Anthology of Children’s Literature in the Languages of Indigenous Peoples, etc. have been published. To hold the International Decade of Indigenous Languages in Russia has been established the organizing committee. In addition to many other events, a conference on this topic will be held every two years. The first of them has already taken place in Moscow in July.

Sergey Bakeykin, Vice Chair of the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme, Executive Director of the Interregional Library Cooperation Center (Russian Federation) presented the new program of these institutions “My Mother Tongue”, aimed at supporting and developing the languages of the indigenous peoples of Russia. Within its framework, the My Mother Tongue Almanac was published. Anastasia Parshakova, Deputy Director of the Interregional Library Cooperation Center, Project Coordinator of the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme (Russian Federation) described how Russian regions’ experience can serve as the resource for the development of national and regional policies for the preservation of languages.

Anastasia Parshakova. Photo: Donat Sorokin, TASS

One of the most multilingual countries in the world is India. Can indigenous and minority languages of this country survive in the context of digitalization? About this pondered Prabhakar Rao Jandhyala, Professor, Director of the India Center of Excellence in Information Ethics and Head of the Center for Study of Foreign Languages at the University of Hyderabad (India). He noted that most of the world’s languages today are under threat. 96% of languages are spoken by 3% of nations. Multilingualism in India is a historical and sociocultural phenomenon that affects everything, including the economy. During the colonial regime, many languages suffered, and with the onset of globalization, the situation becomes even worse. Digitalization covers only a few major Indian languages, leaving the vast majority on the periphery. To support them, it is necessary to develop an appropriate infrastructure, create digital content in these languages, use the possibilities of language technologies, etc.

Prabhakar Rao Jandhyala. Photo: Alexandra Konakova

A number of international joint projects in the field of indigenous languages were presented by Sergey Chumaryov, Deputy Director of the Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (Russian Federation). They stretch from the Arctic region, where a radio station has been created that broadcasts in the languages of the local population, to Africa, where scientists are engaged in the digitalization of the linguistic and cultural heritage of various ethnic groups.

A lot of theoretical, terminological, sociocultural, linguistic, psychological, technological, legal and other aspects related to the introduction of ICT, the dynamic development of neural networks and artificial intellect were examined during the IV International Conference “Tangible and Intangible Impact of Information and Communication in the Digital Age”. Such an acute topic as the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine was also touched upon. A number of reports in one way or another dealt with these events and the international reaction to them. In total, 62 reports were presented at the conference.

At the conference. Photo: Vladislav Burnashev, Ugra-Expo

On the last day, a trip to the confluence of the Irtysh and Ob rivers was organized for the participants. And, looking at the beauty and power of these two great streams, the thought had come that although we arrived from different parts of the world, speak different languages, have different mentalities, there are some footings, a mutual basement that unites us all. This is an aspiration to build a safe and peaceful future, where all people, regardless of their language, nationality, gender, age, social origin, wealth, place of residence, will have equal opportunities to fulfill themselves and be happy. That’s the footings on which bridges should be erected that will allow us to cross the seething flood of modernity safely.