Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Amharic Office Word Application Software Almost Complete

A project working on the localization of two software types is about a month away from finalization, knowledgeable sources disclosed.

The joint ICT glossary project, currently in its finale stages, is under the strategic agreement of the Ethiopia Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA), the Addis Abeba University (AAU) and Microsoft. It is meant to translate terminologies used in the software from English to Amharic - Ethiopia's official language at federal level.

IT experts from EICTDA, the AAU and Microsoft have been working on the project for over one year and expect to finish the translation work in the coming month; the translated software will be available to the public for free, according to Minasse Zewdu, citizenship manager at Microsoft East Africa Limited, Ethiopia Branch Office.

The localized software will make it easy for the majority of Ethiopians to operate and work with them, as they are not expected to have knowledge of English to be able to use the software packages, Minasse, told Fortune.

Under the supervision of EICTDA, in cooperation with the AAU, which is a consultant in the project, the idea of terminology translation from English to Amharic was initiated by Microsoft Company at a cost of about 100,000 dollars.

The aim of this ICT electronic glossary project is to exclusively focus on interpreting office word-application software and vista-system operating software by encoding them into Amharic, an expert at the EICTDA, who requested anonymity, told Fortune.

The localization requires prompt, effective and sustainable translation of new terms into the local language, with the aim of building clear and understandable terminologies. The need to have an information and communication technology e-glossary for terms translated from English into the county's official language is mainly because of the poor accessibility to digital information, according to Minasse.

"If people cannot use ICT devices in their own language and cultural context, it causes a digital divide. The establishment of such standards plays a key role in bridging the digital divide and making friendly-ICT available to all citizens, Minasse explained

This localization program provides people with an entry to technology in a language that is familiar and honors linguistic and cultural distinction, as well as provides an opportunity to grow in local IT economy. The Internet and other carriers of content and applications feature mainly the language and culture of the western country, primarily English, which contains no content customized to the needs of Ethiopians, for example.

Education authorities claim that the objective of the Ethiopian government is to equip citizens with the means to apply ICT in their daily lives, and to increase opportunities for learning through the acquisition of knowledge and information.

"At present, the absence of standardized ICT terminology for the country's' languages in general has created problems in the educational system, ICT sector and hindered the development of relevant digital content and application," Minasse told Fortune.

EICTDA's move in initiating this project seems a response to these problems.

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