Super Heroes of Mali

Super heros

Dwayne Bailey has just returned from a trip to Mali and brings greetings from West Africa, where they have been busy localizing Mozilla Firefox. Together with Heather they will  be wrangling the localization space at Mozfest 2015.

I’ve just returned from West Africa, lost my luggage, my flights were a mess and I’d forgotten how hot it can get in West Africa.  Poor me.  But two of my superheros travelled from Burkina Faso and Cote D’ivoire on a two day bus journey.  Who cares about luggage when you meet localizers who’re making sure that their language has a digital presence.

It was a good opportunity to remind myself about why I started Translate and why we do this.  We work in technology but really the technology should not take centre stage.  That’s why I’m excited about this year’s Mozfest as we want to see if we can make the localization stream much less about technology and most certainly about the people.

Back to my Super hero’s.  I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Mohomodou.  Who single handedly has ensured that Firefox and various other open source tools are available in Songhay.  Steadfastly, determinedly he’s been at it for a number of years.  I see my job as ensuring that Mohomodou can focus on localization. Our job is to work hard to hide the geeky complexity in the background.

In Mali I got to experience 1990s speed connectivity despite the government has an amazing program in place to address this. Sometimes I question the work we do on the internet because we assume that everyone is as well connected as we are.  It made me realise just how important the Firefox OS phones can be in these parts of the world as it give the web but doesn’t necessarily need to be that connected. It is really the only mobile platform that the community can shape to their locale.

Many people coming to Mozfest might never have been exposed to localization.  The kind of issues we’re tackling go beyond just translating strings. We are dealing with missing or non-existent keyboards, debates around common words like browser, missing glyphs in fonts and slow connectivity.  I hope that this simple list might make some of you excited about bringing your skills to our space.

At Translate our world is much wider than traditional localization because the marginalised languages are under resourced in so many areas. We see digitising and publishing books, making spell checkers and stimulating content creation as all part of localization.
My last super hero? He is a customs official in Burkina Faso.  I think he could become the only customs official you’ll ever love.  When he’s not doing whatever customs people do he’s at his computer, translating, building terminology and making sure that Toura is part of the digital world.

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