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It’s 2017, You Should be Localizing Your ICT4D Solutions Already

By Guest Writer on March 30, 2017

Many ICT4D projects have a major strike against them before they even begin: they use international languages instead of local ones. The intended audience not only has to learn a technology that they may not be comfortable with, but they also have to struggle with the language that it uses, which they may read only slowly and poorly, if at all.

It is useless to produce a whizbang tool to reach the “next billion”, if it’s in a language that they do not understand.

4 Reasons Why You Should Localize

Localization, or L10n, is ensuring that tools work in the local language actually used by your intended audience. That starts with realizing that many people do not use only one language.

Life gets even more complex when non-Roman scripts (NRS) are added to the mix – writing systems not based upon English’s Latin alphabet.  Many Asian scripts have complicated rules governing placement of glyphs.  SIL has spent 30 years working on this issue and has a significant website dedicated to the issue with helpful tutorials, fonts, and other helps.

Localization is Possible

Internationalization and localization of software is complex, but fortunately, good free minority language keyboarding software is available on Android, Windows, and Linux.

  • Android: Multiling provides Swype-like functionality used by millions of people each day.
  • Windows: Keyman is a free tool from SIL for Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux: KMFL is KeyMan For Linux, easily installed by Synaptic or Yum.

All are mature, stable tools with keyboards available in hundreds of languages.  These will not completely solve the problem of menus, etc., but they are a good simple step in the right direction.  They can easily and inexpensively add sophisticated language entry support to existing applications.

Oh, and if you are working in Myanmar, please respect its ethnic diversity and use Unicode Fonts online.

When people from minority languages see words they can understand on a computer or phone, it immediately grabs their attention and something marvelous happens.  They dare to dream.  Their self-esteem grows.  Their eyes are opened to the potential that they have within themselves.

By Stephen Fierbaugh, Manager of Field Solutions at Seed Company

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