The Portuguese language is already the fifth most “spoken” language in the world. Data published by the International Telecommunication Union shows that Portuguese already topped Arabic, French and German as languages with the largest number of users on the web. According to the entity, the increase in internet usage in Brazil in the last ten years largely explains the language’s prominent position. There are at least 83 million people in the world using Portuguese online. Specialists say that Portuguese could overtake Japonese in a few years – which today has 99 million web users – and occupy fourth place.
The reason for this is that the increase in web usage in Brazil, Angola and Mozambique still would have a long ways to go before reaching the same levels of penetration of rich countries, while in Japan the reality points to a technological “maturity”. Proof of this is that there are already more Portuguese speakers on the web than the 75 million Germans and the 60 million users that speak French. Arabic, despite being spread out throughout different regions of the world, today has a internet user population lower than Portuguese, with 65 million.
The leading langauge of the Internet continues being English, with a user population of 565 million. But, if this was total dominance 10 years ago, today it’s facing threat by China. The number of people that principally use Chinese on the web is already at 510 million people. The third place goes to Spanish, with 165 million users. To specialists, part of a language’s global influence will be measured in a few years just by its usage on the Internet.
Politics. Counting the number of users in each language isn’t just an indication of its culture’s influence. The governments of emerging countries are pressing the International Telecommunication Union to adopt a stronger position in relation to the defense that there is more control by governments over a web that is now largely dominated by technology companies from rich countries. This week, in Geneva, the ITU is holding another debate on the subject and, once more, emerging countries will press them for a greater interference of the States on the future of the web.
There are at least three groups of countries that do not disguise the clash of opinions. On one side, Americans and Europeans insist that the Internet needs to continue its semiprivate trajectory, without larger State involvement. Emerging countries say this position is “cynical”, since the very company that establishes web domains is from a project headed by the American government. “What the US wants is the non-involvement of other governments on the web. But they continue having a clear influence”, said a director of a regulatory agency in South America.
Control. On the other end are countries like Russia, which defend State control on the web. In a middle position is Brazil, since Brasília insists that one of its goals is to guarantee a larger “democratization” of global management of the Internet. – Source (PT)
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