Wednesday April 2, 2003
Microsoft to Deliver Windows, Office in Major Nigerian Languages
Microsoft has announced that it will deliver Language Interface Packs that will soon make Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office packages more locally-relevant and easier to understand for Nigerian end users in commemoration of the International Mother Language Day in Nigeria.
The disclosure was made when Jummai Umar-Ajijola, citizenship manager for Microsoft Nigeria led a team of Microsoft partners to make a presentation to the Chairman, Education Committee, House of Representatives, and Honourable Faruk Lawan in Abuja. The visit which also included a visit to the Federal Ministry of Education was part of the activities to mark the Mother Language Day, where the team was received by Alhaji Bello Ozigis, Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education on behalf of Hajiya Aisha Dukku Minister of State for Education.
Microsoft is working closely with the Linguistic Association of Nigeria and other advocates to complete work on the Language Interface Packs for the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba languages, which will be compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office Word.
Hajiya Aisha, Honourable Minister of State for Education, is currently one of the championing forces behind the language program and presented the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba glossaries to stakeholders in Abuja last December.
According to Dr. Tunde Adegbola of Alt-i, who is the moderator of the localisation process in Nigeria, the Windows Interface Packs are on track to be released this May, and the Office Interface Packs are scheduled for release later in October.
Honourable Lawan while speaking at the day’s festivities on behalf of the Honourable Speaker, House of Representatives, commended Microsoft for the continued efforts to grow a strong local IT industry and ensure that every citizen has fair and meaningful access to locally-relevant technology.
“Functional education and specialized training are the pre-requisites for a productive workforce, and good leaders. It is the only way to create a populace that is successful in all spheres of human life. All these cannot be achieved without understanding. This is the critical role that language plays. We are therefore committed to ensuring that everyone has access to functional education in language familiar to them. We commend Microsoft for the great initiative to bring technology to everyone through the Local Language Program,” Honourable Lawan said.
Microsoft’s Citizenship Lead for Nigeria, Jummai Umar-Ajijola added that governments around the world are facing a great challenge in today’s global economy – the need to quickly build a strong economy that can effectively participate in an increasingly-interconnected world.
“In an environment as diverse as Nigeria – with over 500 ethnic languages – the need to eliminate the language barrier around technology education is critical to the success of the efforts to bridge the digital divide.
“It is in the light of this need that Microsoft developed the Local Language Program to provide the tools and technologies required to develop, enhance, and expand local IT economies and to enable language groups of all sizes to participate in this growth,” she said.
Articles 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Declare that all persons have the right to express themselves and to create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice, and particularly in their mother tongue.
According to Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO, “Languages do indeed matter in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which the United Nations agreed upon in 2000.
“They matter when we want to promote cultural diversity, and fight illiteracy, and they matter for quality education, including teaching in the mother language in the first years of schooling. They matter in the fight for greater social inclusion, for creativity, economic development and safeguarding indigenous knowledge.”
“We are very excited about the potential that Microsoft’s Local Language Program has for driving technology penetration in Nigeria,” Dr Adegbola added.
“This is a further demonstration of the company’s commitment to supporting the reform agenda of the present administration by transforming education and creating opportunities for local innovation. We are also delighted to be a part of this great project,” he said.
Microsoft has completed work on glossaries for the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba translations of Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007.
By this, Microsoft Windows and the four applications in Microsoft Office 2007- Excel, Word, Powerpoint and Access, can easily be adapted to versions in the three languages.
The firm said a Language Interface Pack that would allow the applications to fully be available in the three languages was in the works and would be delivered in the coming months.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Hajiya Aishatu Dukku, presented the glossaries to stakeholders in Abuja on Wednesday, a development that Microsoft noted was one more landmark in its Local Language Program in Nigeria.
Currently, the LLP scheme is working on 101 languages in the world and five in the West Africa.
According to the Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Mr. Emmanuel Onyeje, the LLP is Microsoft’s response to the need to provide people of all regions, cultures and languages, with access to technology in a language that is familiar and which honours their cultural distinctions.
He said, “Learning a second language should not be a prerequisite for using technology. That is why we are working with governments and language authorities to translate our software and extend it to a broader set of users.
“Through the Local Language Program, we are giving our local communities the tools and resources they need to bridge the digital divide and create opportunities for economic advancement.”
At the presentation of the moderator of the localisation process in Nigeria, Dr. Tunde Adegbola of the African Languages Technology Institute, explained that the glossary and LIP would equip local information technology communities with the basic tools to create customised language solutions that promote economic growth and preserve local languages.
Developed from the glossary, the LIP is the application that connects the local language to the computer, through a native language desktop user interface.
When the process is completed, the LIP will be freely downloadable from the LLP website.
Local solutions can be developed on top of the LIPs, enabling the creation of localised products that enhance the value of each LIP and ensure the successful use of technology.
Adegbola urged the stakeholders to study the glossary, which was developed in collaboration with governments, universities, and language authorities to ensure that the standard technical terminologies had been translated correctly into the local languages.
The Minister of Education, Hajiya Aishatu Dukku, commended Microsoft for the initiative to eliminate the language barrier, which presented a serious challenge for teaching and learning technology at the grassroots.
She further outlined the national policy on education, which recognised the language of the environment as the first language of instruction for the first three years of education with English only taught as a subject.
From the fourth year, English language becomes the language of instruction, while the language of the environment and French are taught as subjects.
She said that with the LLP, teaching technology would be much easier.
The minister said, “There are so many skills we may not be able to transfer except in our local languages. This initiative by Microsoft is a first step for us to start thinking of how we can develop our languages further in order to grow our IT capacity.”
By eliminating the language barrier to technology education through the local language programme, Microsoft believes that many more people will be encouraged to use desktop software in Nigeria’s local communities, improving access to technology.
This will create new economic opportunities, and enriching people’s personal lives. The move will go a long way to bridging the digital divide between the developed and developing communities around the world.
It is expected that the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba language stakeholder groups will review the glossary and work with Microsoft to produce the final copy to move the LLP to the NEXT level.&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&