The digital vitality of Basque before the mirror

If we want to ensure the digital vitality of Basque, we have to strengthen both supply and demand.

We know that Basque has its future at stake, and we have often asserted that the digital environment is one of the fields of play. The digital vitality of a language provides us with essential information about its state of health. The digital environment has become a major channel of communication, and the visibility and use that languages enjoy in that environment need to be taken into consideration when finding out about their digital vitality.

When we talk about the digital vitality of Basque, to be able to measure it we can focus on two areas: the supply and demand that Basque has in the digital environment. In other words, how many tools and content are offered in Basque in the digital environment, and how much they are used.

With respect to supply, when taking all the Basque Country’s websites into consideration, there are 26,663 websites with Basque content, 16% of the total. The .EUS domain is the domain that uses Basque the most: in this case, the percentage of websites that have content in Basque is 89.23%. So the .EUS domain can be said to be operating as the digital “lungs” of the Basque language. However, nowadays the audiovisual area is the one that carries the greatest weight in the digital environment. 57% of all the traffic that moved across the Internet in 2018 consisted of videos and 8%, video games. Basque has no place in this major traffic.

Some of the data used to express the good digital vitality of Basque are better nowadays. For example, in the case of Basque Wikipedia, the 350,000-article threshold has been crossed and it currently occupies 39th place in the world rankings.

However, publishing content in Basque is of no use whatsoever unless consumer habits in Basque are strengthened. For example, many websites display the content in the browsing language set by the user in his/her browser, but between 3% and 5% of users in the Basque Country set Basque as their default browsing language.

Mobile phone language and browsing language are not private spheres: the websites you visit, the apps you download mean that the people behind them know what language all your devices are in. And decisions are made on the basis of those data and on the supply and demand logic. What’s the point in spending money supplying a language that we Basques don’t use?

So when we hold the digital vitality of Basque before the mirror, we can see supply and demand in collision with each other: Basque is offered on the Internet, there is content and there are tools, but they are not sufficient, because the digital environment is being constantly renewed and created. The data indicate that supply is limited, so if we want to ensure the digital vitality of Basque, we have to intensify supply in a digital environment, which is changing so much.

However, if we bear in mind that users opt for mainstream languages, we can conclude that supply may even be excessive. That strikes one as a contradiction, but the digital vitality of Basque is not restricted to supply, because unused supply has no future. We have to train and motivate users, we have to encourage them to strengthen our digital community and to consume and create the digital environment in Basque.

If we want to ensure the digital vitality of Basque, we have to strengthen both supply and demand.