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[rpd] Improving participation of francophone and arab country

Andrew Alston Andrew.Alston at
Thu Dec 31 06:12:15 UTC 2015

Again, written as a random citizen of the Internet, and not necessarily representative of any organisation to which I am affiliated.

Ok, lets step back a second and look entirely at the policy side of this.

Firstly, a policy can have multiple authors.
Secondly, if the author of a policy wants consensus on a policy, it is up to that author to engage the community and lobby for the policy proposal.

Part of that lobbying is to ensure your policy is understood across language barriers.

I would there for argue that the author of a policy could go out, find a co-author that fell into the language which he was NOT writing in, and have a translation done and submit the policy to the PDP in multiple languages, without AfriNIC actually getting involved in the translation.  This would also serve to build a bridge between the various language groups, and it would greatly assist the author in getting his policy passed, since it goes without saying that a policy that is not well understood will probably not pass consensus.

That being said, when it comes to policy implementation, there has to be an agreement that policy implementation has to always be against a single language version, to avoid a potential problem where mis-translation could result in conflicting versions and create problems for the staff.  (I have seen this happen before in other places outside of AfriNIC).

I will also say that for myself, I would be far happier if a policy translation came from one of the co-authors of the policy, since I would have more faith in the translation than I would if it was translated by an external party.  Technical translation is a tricky thing, and we’ve seen it times and again at meetings where at times the translation can be extremely misleading.

Basically, this is not a problem I believe AfriNIC should be solving, it is a problem the policy authors can choose to solve themselves, by simply adding co-authors to the policy who can translate the policy, which the author should probably do anyway as part of his advocacy work for his policy.  Remember something else, AfriNIC are the implementers of policy, and as such, need to remain ENTIRELY neutral on the content of the policy and its passage through the community.  The moment you ask AfriNIC to get involved in translating the policy to another language that neutrality is somehow violated because they are now directly involved in its passage through the system (since the translated language could contain nuances in the language that may sway opinion one way or another).

(And the author is then free to add as many co-authors as he likes to get the policy submission in as many languages as he likes, hell, if he can find someone to do it, he can even submit a translation in Latin or Greek if he really wants!)



From: Chevalier du Borg [mailto:virtual.borg at]
Sent: 31 December 2015 07:49
To: Andrew Alston <Andrew.Alston at>
Cc: Sara Alamin <sara.alamin at>; AfriNIC RPD MList. <rpd at>
Subject: Re: [rpd] Improving participation of francophone and arab country

thank you for you great analyses!

I started this thread because some member of list were mixing my first mail about "ways to measure board performance" with "language barrier for francophones"

my position

a) there are thousands of french-speaker who ARE NOT ON THIS LIST. Some think it because of language barrier. I disagree ... i think they don't just care. If they have not even register, how can they claim language barrier?

b) IF there are francophone here who do are unable to participate, then as a community (perhaps with some help from afrinic the company) we should try to help them.

c) Ultimate policies will remain in English

here is thing we can do

a) afrinic staff can make sure that during meeting ... there are printed copy of policy texts (latest version) in english and FRENCH
b) afrinic staff can provide monthly summaries of policy discussion in english and french (even using community help)
b) any person on this list who is french or portuguese or arabic who isn't understanding a contribution can ask "Pls help with translation for me"

2015-12-30 18:14 GMT+04:00 Andrew Alston <Andrew.Alston at<mailto:Andrew.Alston at>>:

> 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.

Great analysis. It however miss one important distinction: the afrinic COMMUNITY is a independent entity (from afrinic the organisation) that make policy (at least that what I understand from afrinic trainers and training material)  and is the focus on this discussion.

> 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.

to advocate for the other side --- i.e. community involvement and particularly engagement in policy discussions, there are few participation from francophones ABOUT POLICY. i think that at these meeting, if afrinic staff provide copies in french of latest policy proposal on discussion and other key document, it will help participation on site and hopefully those people will come to mailing list also.

I also note that even in english speaking country ...there is often many participation life by people who just walk in and are not on the mailing list

> 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.

i started this thread because other member of list made the complain about francophone balance etc. i don't believe it of course ... the problem i see is one of APATHY ...generally and also very heavy among north african and francophone countries.

> 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

exact! ... i think this is more cultural pride than any reality. which is sad. Thanks for adding weight to my earlier counter-arguement to  "let's add arabic too" by pointing out swahili and hausa/fulani which are spoke by about 25 percent of the continent. France, China, Japan ... advance, bigger economies with high cultural pride don't fight this fight ...the have seen it is pointless. let africans not waste time on it.

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

Borg le Chevalier
"Common sense is what tells us the world is flat"
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