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Ugandan Mozilla Highlights Power of OSS Translation - page 2

Facing the Challange

  • September 13, 2004
  • By Joyce Kyeyune

LP: How did you form the team... where did you get the translators?

Wire: The team composition was not really a complex process. We used some available HR for one of the team members. We were blessed to have an elderly lady who has vast experience in Luganda and education. The rest were young university students.

LP: In total how many people were working on the project?

Wire: Eight people. There were four translators, a supervisor, a technical coordinator who did the compiling of the software, two PR personnel, and I was the overall project overseer.

LP: How was the project financed?

Wire: We, the vision bearers, dug deep into our pockets.

LP: How much would you estimate went into the project?

Wire: (Smiling) We're still balancing the books but at least several million shillings.

LP: What are the key aspects to consider when starting such a project?

Wire: The software to be translated and the team to translate; after that it's public relations.

LP: Can you elaborate on the software aspect?

Wire: Don't take it for granted that you are just going to jump onto any software and translate it. Microsoft for example will not allow you to freely translate Internet Explorer.

LP: It's proprietary, copyrighted so you cannot view or modify the source code?

Wire: Yes. Mozilla on the other hand is Open Source and can be freely modified without legal ramifications.

LP: Is this Luganda browser ready for use by the general public?

Wire: Nearly there. As of today, it is useable; however, there are still a few changes to make.

LP: So can the general public access it?

Wire: The software is still in beta testing phase. A number of individuals are testing it to make sure it's functioning properly. We shall be announcing its release in a few weeks. This will give any Ugandan with access to the Internet an opportunity to download the software.

LP: Does someone have to be very conversant with Luganda to use the browser?

Wire: It's what I call "New Age Luganda." It is easily understandable by the average Ugandan.

LP: What were the most difficult words to translate?

Wire: (Laughing) The team for example had problems with translating "Back." Do we use "e mabega" or "enyuma" ? Eventually we went with "e mabega."

LP: Any others?

Mr Wire : For "Cookie" we simply modified it and called it "Kuki." Domain was translated as "e'kyapa."

LP: Very interesting choices. How did you translate web site?

Wire: Olutimbe. You can now perhaps understand the complexity of translating technology terms into local languages.

LP: What lessons can the rest of us pick from this momentous project?

Wire: The language aspect of the digital divide has finally been demystified. The floodgates are about to open for IT usage by anyone who can read and write a local language.

LP: Please elaborate. Wire: I view this as a landmark in the history of ICT in this country. We have began with Luganda but more will follow in Runyakitara, Lumasaba, Ateso, Luo and many others.

LP: Will you also translate into Kiswahili?

Wire: No. We believe the Tanzanians who have already embarked on it have a greater comparative advantage since it is widely spoken there.

LP: Are you going to translate web pages next?

Wire: We are part of a big jigsaw puzzle. Every one can only put in a piece to form the bigger picture. Our piece is the software translation. Let others borrow from that and translate content. LP: What last words do you have for Ugandans in line with this project?

Wire: We hardly do anything for our selves and have preference for foreign products in all forms; clothing, curricula, technology and even languages. We have over time developed distaste for not only our very own products but also our skills.

LP: Please explain.

Wire: When it comes to IT and software, Uganda has very high potential to regain its glory as the Pearl of Africa. Free and Open Source Software is a saviour within our midst.

LP: You are advocating for the use of Open Source?

Wire: This project is a demonstration of the power that Free Open Source Software puts into our hands; "The freedom to choose."

LP: How can people reach you to support the project?

Wire: They can email team@translate.or.ug

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