Speaking from the Roof of the World; The Challenges in Implementing Unicode Inuktitut for Canada's Arctic Territory of Nunavut

Jack Cain and Kit Pullen - Multilingual E-Data Solutions

Intended Audience: Manager, Software Engineer, Systems Analyst, Marketer
Session Level: Beginner, Intermediate

On April 1, 1999 the new Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut came into existence.

Computer systems being installed to support the infrastructure, government, and services of this new territory are expected to function in English and French as well as in two Inuit dialects: Inuinnaqtun which uses the Roman script and Inuktitut which uses "Canadian aboriginal syllabics".

This presentation will cover the requirements, challenges and technical difficulties of creating new systems with a script which itself is new to Unicode. (Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics were fully approved in mid 1998 and are included in Unicode 3.0.) The territorial government offices are standardizing on Windows NT and Office 2000 so it is in this context that much of the implementation work is being carried out. Conversion from heritage systems is also a critical element in the deployment of new systems and services.

The linguistic characteristics of Inuktitut and how they affect the design of products and services will be covered in some detail.

In the 2 million square kilometer area of Nunavut there are 28 communities that vary in size from around 100 to about 4000 and total only 26,000 people. Given these statistics, Internet-based electronic communications is an extremely important component in communicating with citizens and delivering information based services to them. Nunavut is in fact planning to rely on Internet and Intranet solutions to solve many issues of Arctic life but in particular telecommunications, education, and health care. Nunavut could be termed an epitome of "Global Connection".

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25 October 1999, Webmaster