9. Take into account the multilingual EU environment when developing IT solutions

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One of the underlying principles of the European Interoperability Framework is that public administrations should take multilingualism into account when developing the internal structure and documentation of IT solutions in order to improve their potential to be reused across borders.

Despite its importance, the multilingual aspect of IT solutions is frequently overlooked. Public administrations rarely prioritise the need for multilingualism from an end-user perspective, which renders cross-border reuse impossible or too expensive.

As an answer to this concern, internationalisation rules should apply when developing IT solutions to enable their reuse in a multilingual context, and support their technical and financial sustainability.


9.1. Follow basic internationalisation principles


Localisation involves adapting an IT solution in order to meet language, cultural and other types of requirements in a specific market, such as numeric systems, date and time formats, use of currency, etc. IT solutions that cannot be localised with reasonable effort have low potential to be reused across borders. Thus, public administrations should insist that developers follow basic internationalisation principles during the design of IT solutions to allow their adaptability to various languages and regions without any engineering changes.

Supporting instrument There are several guidelines available on internationalisation principles. An example of such a guideline is W3C’s Internationalisation (i18n) Activity. [25]

The effort and detail required to create IT solutions that support several languages should not be underestimated. For example, a key challenge lies in ensuring that the IT solution is flexible enough to handle different ways of displaying and processing information in other countries and cultures. In fact, developers might make ill-informed assumptions about their users’ language and customs. For instance, the displayed numerical value of currency differs depending on whether it refers to US or Canadian dollars.

When developing IT solutions, public administrations can overcome barriers to localisation and international deployment by applying internationalisation principles, such as enabling the use of Unicode for textual data and separating elements that can be localised from source code or content.


9.2. Provide documentation in multiple languages


In a multilingual environment, such as the European Union, documentation of IT solutions needs to be available in different languages for reuse to be as widespread as possible.

Public administrations should document their IT solutions in multiple additional languages, or at least in English, to help users understand what the solution is about and how to reuse it.

Supporting instrument The European Commission has developed the CEF Automated Translation [18], a machine translation service that can be accessed over a secure internet connection and used by any European public administration

However, in certain circumstances, the significant volume of content to be translated makes it very difficult to carry out this task exclusively by human translation.

Public administrations can, therefore, also use machine translation services, such as the CEF Automated Translation.


Recommended measures for central bodies


• Support internationalisation principles

Central bodies should support the use of internationalisation principles among public administrations by raising awareness and promoting good practice.


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