Ethiopia: Microsoft software application soon in Amharic

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Ethiopia Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA); the federal government arm in charge of Information and communication technology (ICT) development at the Addis Ababa University (AAU), and Microsoft are currently translating terminologies used in the software from English to Amharic – Ethiopia’s official language.

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

The project — terminology translation from English to Amharic — was initiated by Microsoft Company at a cost of about US $100,000 under the supervision of EICTDA, in cooperation with the AAU, the project’s consultant.

The project will see prompt, effective and sustainable translation of new terms into the local Amharic language, with the aim of building clear and understandable terminologies. It is expected to simplify computer use for the majority of Ethiopians and also encourage them to operate and work with them. The need to have an information and communication technology electronic glossary for terms translated from English into Amharic is mainly because of Ethiopians’ poor accessibility to digital information, according to Minasse. Their inability to understand the English language has prevented most Ethiopians from using Microsoft software packages.

The aim of this ICT electronic glossary project is to exclusively focus on interpreting the office word-application software and vista-system operating software by encoding them into Amharic.

For many Ethiopians, this localization programme will serve as a port of entry into technology, using a familiar language that honours their linguistic and cultural distinction. “Western languages, especially English, have monopolised the Internet, alongside other content carriers and applications, in their use as a cultural tool, among others”, some obsevers have said.

“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. Education authorities have also indicated that the move will equip citizens with the appropriate learning opportunities.

The emergence of an Amharic software is expected to provide Ethiopians with an opportunity to develop the local IT economy.

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