Published in Tectonic
Let’s face it: it’s never nice coming second (or for that matter third or fourth). But South African non-profit Translate.org.za does have something to cheer about after they returned empty-handed from the Stockholm Challenge Award ceremony earlier this month.
A little-known African localisation projected called KiLinux, which translated open source office suite OpenOffice.org into Swahili, scooped an award under the Education category.
The annual Stockholm Challenge rewards ICT projects that accelerate the use of information technology for the benefit of citizens and communities.
Director of Translate.org.za, Dwayne Bailey, says KiLinux’s award signals a growing appreciation of the role localisation has to play in Africa. “It is very exciting for us to see localisation and open source software win such a prestigious award,” says Bailey.
“I think it’s wonderful because we’re often faced with the [situation where] people just don’t recognise the importance of localisation,” he says. “The jury is out whether this will change the perception of donors or other people in terms of wanting to put money into localisation. I hope it will.”
In a statement announcing the winners, the Stockholm Challenge website noted that the KiLinux project “supports the learning process for many people living in Central & Eastern Africa. People who were previously forced to learn in a foreign language can now learn in their own language.”
The KiLinux team has also developed a Swahili IT Glossary containing hundreds of computer-related terms in English and their Swahili equivalents. The glossary has been released under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license.
Translate.org.za has worked with the KiLinux team, offering training and technical support to the Tanzanian project. “We are proud to have been associated with the KiLinux team and in helping them reach their goals,” says Bailey.
It’s a role that is likely to continue for the South African non-profit, which is looking to partner with projects that have the translation skills, but not necessarily the technical skills. “[Often] there are two sets of skills and they are at extremes,” says Bailey. “Either you’re a really good translator, and you can’t even unzip a file â€¦ and then the other extreme is these highly technical [people] who don’t really know anything about translation,” he says. “Moving forward, what we would like to see happening with Translate, is that we act as a technical resource.”
Translate.org.za has joined forces with Swedish consultancy IT46 and Cambodian project KhmerOS to start WordForge, a project aimed at building tools, skilling and assisting translations. A project that Bailey says is “building tools to make it easier to translate”.
The Stockholm Challenge awarded South Africa’s Freedom Toaster project and Distance Learning and Information Sharing Tool (DLIST-Benguela) special mentions in the Education and Environment categories respectively.