On 4 September 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner organized a panel discussion on the most efficient ways of upholding good governance to address the human rights impacts of the various digital divides. Mr. Jeroen Zandberg had a contribution about the situation of digital governance in the Frisian languages. The speech is copied below.

I wish to highlight the e-governance situation of a linguistic minority in northwestern Germany. It concerns the Frisians. Germany recognizes the Frisians as an official national minority and as such it provides them support. However, this support is minimal and inadequate as compared to the support given to the other three recognized national minorities.

Many government services are currently digitally available. However, these services are only fully available in the German language. In some areas, like education and cultural affairs, there is support for Frisian, but only as an online information leaflet and not as a fully transactional and seamless service. You could say that the Frisian language accessibility sits at the first stage of the e-government model, while the German language sits at stage five. In order to bridge this digital divide, priority should be given to providing the Frisian minority the same e-government services in Frisian as in German.

This public policy can be most effective with support from the private sector, because they are at the forefront of technological developments. The government should actively promote the production and availability of educational digital content in the Frisian language that is needed to make sure that the language gap does not translate into a digital gap.

Furthermore, the Frisian language should be made available in digital office and productivity tools. The languages of the other recognized national minorities in Germany, have already been made digitally available by Google and Microsoft. The same should also be done for Eastern and Northen Frisian. The government should take a leadership role in this.

Finally, special attention should also be given to increased data privacy and security. Without adequate legal and technological safeguards, it will be easy for government agencies and businesses to track the online activities of every Frisian individual, because the Frisian language community is so small, as compared to German speakers. Preventing a surveillance society, combined with increased transparency and accountability, will increase the trust that the Frisian minority has in the government and will stimulate citizen engagement.

Thank you,

Jeroen Zandberg

Global Diplomatic Council

Expert meeting on good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights

Panel 2. A way forward: the role of digitalization in promoting good governance

Monday 4 September 2023

15.00 – 17.00

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