Position Paper (short biography)

Inter-cultural Adaption

Bob Briscoe <rbriscoe@jungle.bt.co.uk>
Service Infrastructure Futures Project Manager
BT Advanced Applications and Technologies
BT Labs, England

Language is only one of many differences between global cultures. However, I recognise that this workshop is primarily focussed on language and character sets. I am more than willing to confine myself to this area, as I am personally fairly new to Internationalisation issues. However, I am just as willing to discuss the wider issues below (possibly confining this to their language and character set aspects) if there is concensus from the workshop participants.

Following the finalisation of a long term research programme into cross-cultural issues conducted by BT's Human Factors dept., this has led us to embark on a project entitled "Inter-cultural Adaption" that focuses on adaption of the infrastructure of our commercial Internet services to the cultures of the parties involved in an interaction.

The aim is to be able to offer our future Internet services to an ever-widening global audience. We wish to enable re-use of as many of the elements of the service as possible, while automatically bringing into play alternative service modules to address the different expectations of different regional markets.

While we obviously have a strong interest in the language and character set issues (e.g. our text summariser now summarises five European languages http://www.labs.bt.com/innovate/informat/netsumm/index.htm), we recognise there is much more to localising a service to a particular region:

We have designed a multi-application commercial Internet service with an adaptable infrastructure and are embarking on proving it with an experimental laboratory implementation. In parallel, we are developing a classification system that will drive the adaption to these inter-cultural differences and we are populating it with data on the differences themselves.

We assert that in order to switch between different Internet services, the adaption mechanism will have to be open and standard, and will itself have to cope with multi-lingual service-type descriptions.

In summary, it is important to see the Web as a service delivery mechanism, not just an information delivery service. Once this is recognised, internationalisation becomes much more than a language problem.