Sunday, February 06, 2005

Modifications on this blog

I made some minor changes, including modifying the blog description and adding a new group/list - MINEL - to the lefthand column.

The previous blog description (for the record) was:
Don Osborn's reflections on the Sahel, language, agriculture, development, education & more... "Beyond Niamey" has the sense of a personal & family transition, and also of reference to a key conference on African language transcription in 1978 that has implications for ICT work today

I am not sure how the RSS feeds are working - I suspect they are not but cannot see them where I am (continued trouble with accessing the blog, though much less, curiously, for accessing the blog editor).

Description of Bisharat, its evolution, & a12n

Andrew Cunningham asked me for a brief description of Bisharat (see link on lefthand column under "Work") and how the ICT4D focus has come to link with other issues, and of a12n. I copy it below:

Bisharat began with a vision that can be summed up as "ICT in African languages for rural development in Africa." The various insights, observations, and conversations that led up to this are another story. But the motivation was and is to address the barriers to greater use by Africans of their indigenous languages in ICT, and its audience is as much foreign ICT for development programs active in Africa as technicians and others from the continent.

Evolution of the idea of Bisharat has basically involved 1) a progressive exploration of different mainly technical factors that make possible computing and internet usage in African languages, and 2) a gradual recognition of various other factors having to do with language but not ICT that are unavoidable considerations. In addition to a largely informational and networking role that will continue, it is hoped to participate in the implementation of some projects in the near future, including about software localization..

"A12n" - Africanization with an explicit ICT meaning - is essentially localization (l10n) in Africa plus those aspects of internationalionalization (i18n) that facilitate use of African languages on computers and the internet. I sought some sort of term or acronym that was as linguistically neutral as possible, simple, and widely recognizable to capture this concept and use for a gateway page and e-mail fora on the Bisharat site. "Africanization" is a term with some historical baggage, but A12n gives a fresh take on it.

We are starting to see much more activity in African language localization of content and software. An interesting dimension that does not get a lot of attention is the importance of African expatriates abroad in localization.