Pan African L10N Workshop
Summary Day 1 / 24 Feb 2007
Note: This summary does not provide a full and detailed picture of the day. It picks out a few issues that came up. Please refer to the original presentations for more detail.
The theme of day 1 was "the big picture and the blitz". We spent some time introducing ourselves to each other - by creating a virtual map of Africa on the floor and standing in the country / region that corresponds best to our work on l10n. As one participant noted, there was a big hole in the centre of the continent, as most participants were grouped along the northern countries, in West Africa, very few in East Africa and a small group in South Africa.
A foundation - Adel presented IDRC's position on l10n as the foundation for the workshop. He stressed that some work has been done already that we can build on, including the work by the Pan African L10N Network (http://www.panafril10n.org) and the WordForge project. He dared the group to be broad in setting out a strategy for future l10n work on the continent, but also to keep in mind what activities can realistically be achieved in the next few years. Localisation is part of IDRC's strategic plan for the 2007-2011 phase of the Acacia initiative, and this meeting is an important step towards defining some of the activities that IDRC would like to support.
Passion: Adel introduced the concept of passion in his presentation. He spoke of his own interest in technology and language and how localisation allowed him to fuse the two. Amar picked up on that when he considered the success factors of the PAN Asia project and mentioned the passion for local language computing / and a shared understanding of its importance. The blitz highlighted the passion and dedication that is needed to overcome all kinds of problems - internet being the smallest.
A look outside of Africa - Two presentations highlighted examples from outside of Africa. Some of the lessons learned can clearly be applied to Africa, other aspects we need to be aware of the differences (the PLETES? model is actually quite helpful to understand these). Amar's presentation brought out a lot of the issues that this group could be facing. When the network moves towards implementation and starts defining a plan of action it will be incredibly useful to return to his remarks on what makes the PAN Asia network successful. A few things really stood out,
Reinhard? provided an interesting view on l10n from a European (and maybe developed country) perspective. What I found surprising is that there is a huge gap between perception in the North and realities in the South. It seems that the North considered all problems solved (Rongo-Rongo?). Also, from his presentation it was clear that commercial localisation efforts focus on purchasing power - and business interests. He presented the genesis model of localisation moving from enterprise to the individual and from low risk (low return for localisers) to higher risk and complexity and higher returns. Need to speak a little more about returns (I think not only in the economic way). He mentioned the tension that arises from globalisation, for example in the context of locales, where people in two different countries might be more similar in socio-cultural terms than with people in their own country. Do locales need to reflect this? In addition, Reinhard? also showed a very pragmatic approach to localisation - he mentioned that there can be a conflict between what we might want to see (from a linguists point of view) and what happens in a language. He mentioned that huge amounts of money had been spent on terminology development - but that journalists and popular culture had already decided terminologies before the policy process could be concluded.
Success stories - mainly designed to bring out some of the work that is already being done and some of the lessons learned in the projects. Many of the stories spoke about a success, but mentioned a big challenge at the same time. Often, it was one part of the puzzle that was in place (which the project might be focusing on) but others parts were missing.