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[rpd] Improving participation of francophone and arab country

Andrew Alston Andrew.Alston at
Wed Dec 30 14:14:23 UTC 2015

Up until now I've been pretty silent on this debate.  But, I'm now at the point where I honestly feel I need to say something.  Anything said below is in my personal capacity, and is in no way representative of the views of any organisation to which I am affiliated.  I speak as a random citizen of the internet.

> - every Arabic country in this continent speaks either english or french too.

Since the majority of the posts on this list (every one I've seen on this subject) are in English, it goes without saying that everyone posting on this subject can also speak English.  Why then does French become something more special than Arabic, when the only ones asking, are asking in English?  See the logic of what you are saying here.

> - Internet is mostly and english technology  (if you argue, show me a configuration file in arabic or french or portuguese or a programming language whose keywords are not english)

I tend to agree with that

> - some thing are nice to do and I think afrinic must do what it can to be more inclusive .. but only when it solve a real problem.

I agree with that as well, and I'm failing to see the problem at the moment that people are screaming we should fix right now

So, that being said, let us talk for a second about what the real problems are in AfriNIC and how the language and demographic debate may be contributing factors that we can help to solve through the introduction of translations and better communications in the respective languages.

Let us first state certain hypotheticals that I would hope we can all agree on.

A.) AfriNIC's primary business is the allocation and control of IP address space 
B.) AfriNIC has to be in a position to be able to operate as a going concern
C.) AfriNIC is a non-profit organisation that is reliant on its members to the pay the bills.

Now, is lack of understanding of communications due to them being primarily in English a contributing factor to the delinquency we see in the payment profiles?  I analysed this, in great depth, using publically available data off the website.  It is curious that the Francophonie countries have the lowest rate of members in good standing as a percentage than any other group of countries.   (When I did my calculations, 63.3% of members in countries that have French as the first language are in good standing, as compared to 85.71% of countries that speak Portuguese, 80.1% of Anglo speaking countries and 76.25% of Arabic speaking countries).  

So, perhaps if you are saying that language is a barrier to this, it's a problem that we do need to work on, however, chicken and egg situation, translation costs money and if people aren't paying their bills who is going to fund it?

However, the hypothesis outlined above fails, because AfriNIC currently does NO Portuguese translation and they have the highest payment percentage (though admittedly one of the lowest portion of member numbers, with only 70 total members as of September 2015).  Their own member base could also make it easier for them to be in good standing, though again, this hypothesis is disputed by the fact that there are less members in Arabic speaking countries who also have a higher payment percentage.

So, lets assume based on the figures above, that language is not a barrier to payment.  So, we need to move onto participation, since we are looking to find the problem we are trying to actually solve here.  I've done some interesting analysis on this as well.

Working backwards to the last 10, Republic of Congo, Ebene, Djibouti, Abidjan, Lusaka, Khartoum, Serekunda, Yaounde, Dar Es Salaam, Johannesburg.  At least 4 of these locations are heavily francophone areas.  Now, considering that to host a members meeting, it requires a host sponsor who comes forward and offers to host, and then a series of criteria, this strongly indicates that there IS participation from the AfriNIC community in franco areas, else the sponsorship would not have happened for these meetings.  And in fact, the participation when considering the member counts of the demographics shows that the francophone countries are participating *MORE* than the Anglo countries.  

Then, on an analysis on the mailing list postings on the RPD, these two have a heavy participation from francophone speakers, these speakers *choose* to interact on the list in English, however, if you look at the locations where the mails are coming from, it is clear that there is participation here.  It would be up to these people to choose to interact in French if they so wished.  However, the risk of doing that, policies require broad based support, and unless comments and policies are proposed in languages that can be understood by the majority, I question if they would ever pass consensus, and the majority of the people on the lists DO speak English (and the posts on the lists are testament to this).

So again, I ask, what is the problem we are actually trying to solve here, since it isn't participation, that's already there, it isn't payment profiles, as indicated by the Arabic and Portuguese segments, it isn't membership numbers, since the francophone countries have the second highest member base on the continent.

That leaves me wondering, are we simply embarking down this road for the sake of cultural pride?  If so, that's a very dangerous road we walk, and it is a road that leads to divisions which have come close to destroying this continent many times before.  If we want translation into French, then Arabic, Portuguese and actually Kiswahili (which is another MAJOR language on the continent) should ALL be recognised, to be inclusive.  We cannot be seen to be given precedence to any specific language demographic, so, in my view, it's all of the major languages or none  

These are just my views and spoken entirely in my personal capacity.


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