Information systems in multilingual environments, such as the EU, suffer from low portability and high deployment costs. In this paper we propose an ontology-based model for multilingual knowledge management in information systems. Our unique feature is a lightweight mechanism, dubbed context, that is associated with ontological concepts and specified in multiple languages. We use contexts to assist in resolving cross-language and local variation ambiguities. Equipped with such a model, we next provide a four-step procedure for overcoming the language barrier in deploying a new information system. We also show that our proposed solution can overcome differences that stem from local variations that may accompany multilingual information systems deployment. The proposed mechanism was tested in an actual multilingual eGovernment environment and by using real-world news syndication traces. Our empirical results serve as a proof-of-concept of the viability of the proposed model. Also, our experiments show that news items in different languages can be identified by a single ontology concept using contexts. We also evaluated the local interpretations of concepts of a language in different geographical locations. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.