The Language Factor and Internet Penetration in Nigeria: A Practical Assessment
Efforts towards greater linguistic diversity in internet usage have often been seen as means of achieving increased internet penetration. Perspectives in this regard are based on several stated or unstated assumptions, one of which is the view that people who do not speak the major internet languages such as English or are not fluent readers in them would naturally opt for their own languages if/when such languages are used on the Internet. This paper presents the argument that in the Nigerian context, assumptions such as this may be misleading in view of findings in past studies which show that Nigerians generally do not enthusiastically embrace the acquisition and use of literacy skills in indigenous languages. In this regard, this article x-rays all the unstated assumptions behind quests for more language options on the Internet with specific reference to Nigeria. It concludes that the provision of Nigerian language options online would not significantly enhance internet penetration in Nigeria without broader adjustments to the roles and status of indigenous languages, as well as greater socio-economic inclusiveness in governance. The article therefore recommends holistic linguistic, socio-economic and political reforms to fight general social exclusion for which linguistic exclusion of any form may be merely symptomatic.