Background Document on Localisation in African Languages

The table of contents for the
web-based version is below.
Download the full document
(minus full appendices) in:

One of the goals of the PanAfrican Localisation project is production of a background paper surveying the state of Arabic and African language use and localisation in ICT. The study is qualitative, relying mainly on expert contacts and information drawn from a wide range of sources.

The object is to identify issues, concerns, priorities and lines of work as regards localisation in Africa and Arabophone countries.

The paper is organized around thematic sections on language and ICT in Africa, introduces the concept of "localisation ecology," outlines technical issues, inventories localisation efforts, and discusses planning and information needs for localisation in African languages. It is completed by extensive appendices on over 90 major languages, country-by-country profiles, writing systems, African and international organisations, and localisation resources.

This paper is unique in several ways, for instance attempting to sketch in some detail the localisation terrain continentwide and incorporating information on language policy and ICT policy. It was later expanded to book length as African Languages in a Digital Age? (2010).

The document as shown is the current working version as of 2007-2-21 (with some minor modifications on 2007-4-14 and during 2007-10). The appendices - section 12 - are the same as the L10n Profiles which are under regular revision.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

A Survey of Localisation in African Languages, and its Prospects: A Background Document

0. Forward

1. Introduction

2. Background

  • 2.1 Importance of African languages in ICT
  • 2.2 What is Localisation?
  • 2.3 Overlapping Regional Contexts: Localisation Where?
  • 2.4 Who Localises?
  • 2.5 What is the Current State of Localisation Across this Region?

3. Introducing "Localisation Ecology"

  • 3.1 An Ecological Perspective of the Environment for Localisation
  • 3.2 The "PLETES" Model
  • 3.3 Dynamic Complexes Within Localisation Ecology
  • 3.4 Relevance to Questions of ICT and Localisation
  • 3.5 Localisation Ecology and the "Digital Divide"

4. Linguistic Context

  • 4.1 Languages, Dialects, and Linguistic Geography
  • 4.2 Sociolinguistics and Language Change
  • 4.3 Language and Language in Education Policies
  • 4.4 Basic Literacy, Pluriliteracy, and User Skills
  • 4.5 Terminology and Accommodation of ICT Concepts

5. Technical Context

  • 5.1 Access: Physical and Soft
  • 5.2 Infrastructure
  • 5.3 Computer Hardware and Operating Systems
  • 5.4 Connectivity and Internet Policy
  • 5.5 Trends in Localisation
  • 5.6 Trends in FOSS

6. Africa and the Internationalisation of ICT

  • 6.1 The Facilitating Technical Environment
  • 6.2 Handling Text: Unicode and Complex Script Requirements
  • 6.3 Keyboards and Input Systems
  • 6.4 Languages, ISO-639 and Locales
  • 6.5 Internationalisation and the Web
  • 6.6 Internationalized Domain Names
  • 6.7 Other Applications

7. Current Localisation Activity

  • 7.1 Evolution of African Language Use in ICT
  • 7.2 Fonts
  • 7.3 Keyboards for Africa
  • 7.4 Locale Data for African Languages
  • 7.5 Software and Operating Systems
  • 7.6 Other applications
  • 7.7 Facilitation of Discussion of Localisation

8. Needs for Sustainable Localisation

  • 8.1 Needs by Kind of Localisation and Localiser
  • 8.2 Understanding the Needs of Localisers
  • 8.3 Analysis of needs from a PanAfrican Perspective

9. Summary and Recommendations

  • 9.1 Major Themes
  • 9.2 Strategic Perspectives
  • 9.3 Conferences and Workshops
  • 9.4 Training and Public Education on Localisation
  • 9.5 Information Resources and Networking
  • 9.6 Languages, Policy and Planning
  • 9.7 Basic Localisation, and ICT Policies and Programs
  • 9.8 Africa and ICT Standards for Localisation
  • 9.9 Advanced Applications and Research

10. Conclusion

11. References

12. Appendices


< Workshops2005-2008 | PAL project history & products | Profiles >