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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 09:08 GMT
Inuit language finds home on net
Sunset in Nunavut
The communities are spread across a vast area
Inuktitut speakers will soon be able to have their say online as the Canadian aboriginal language goes on the web.

Browser settings on normal computers have not supported the language to date, but attavik.net has changed that.

It provides a content management system that allows native speakers to write, manage documents and offer online payments in the Inuit language.

It could prove a vital tool to keep the language alive in one of the most remote communities on earth.

Vital link

Example of the Inuktitut language
Written syllabic langauge was developed in the 18th Century
Inuktitut is spoken by the Inuit people living in Nunavut, northern Canada, which is an area two to three times the size of France, as well as Alaska.

An historic agreement signed with the Canadian government in 1999 allowed the communities living there independence to run their land how they chose.

In this long-established society, the modern medium of the internet is proving a breath of fresh air.

"There are 25 settlements, 30,000 people and no roads. It is a huge area of land and the internet is tailor-made for these groups," said Oliver Zielke, the chief executive of Web Networks, a non-profit organisation based in Canada which provides web services for socially committed groups.

Web Networks worked with the Piruvik Centre of Iqualuit, the capital of Nunavut, to develop the system.

Reaching goals

"It was a big challenge to give the Inuit and Inuktitut speakers the ability to have web pages published in their native language," said Mr Zielke.

"A lot of people have older computers and limited ability to use technology," he added.

With high-speed satellite net access planned for the region and the website providing the easy-to-use tools to make publishing easy, that is about to change.

"The worldwide web can seem like a foreign place to these people but now they can be players in that world. The internet will eventually be one of the basic tools that the Inuit people use," predicted Mr Zielke.

The technology behind attavik.net can be used for other syllabic languages such as Cree, Oji-cree and Korean.

The government of Nunavut is committed to making Inuktitut its working language.

"This type of development puts that goal within reach," said Eva Aariak, Languages Commissioner for Nunavut.

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