Microsoft has a launched a global initiative termed Local Language program, to provide desktop software and tools to government customers by collaborating with local experts governments, universities and other interested parties to help build a robust local IT economy. To this end, Kiswahili was chosen as one of the languages to be initiated as one of the languages to be included in future releases of the Windows Longhorn and Office 2003 Standard Edition (Word, Excel, Power Point and Outlook).  The goals of the project are to:

 

  • To bridge the digital divide between developed and emerging markets and within emerging markets. Localization of Kiswahili will bridge the gap in technology between the developed nations and the Kiswahili speakers in the East and Central Africa region.
  • To preserve language and culture. Technology impacts language and culture in a positive way. Kiswahili language will therefore be preserved.
  • To incorporate 40 new languages in the coming twelve months to the Windows OS and Office Applications. Kiswahili is among the languages considered for localization. Languages currently being localized vary from 30,000 speakers as in Inuktitut to 250 million speakers in Indonesia.

The goals would further enhance the Microsoft’s long term plan to:

  • Continue with traditional localization plans for existing markets. Microsoft will continue with traditional localization strategy. Languages that had shipped as SKUs will continue to ship e.g. French. Kiswahili will be evaluated as a Language Interface Pack or partial/localization. These means that Kiswahili will be available as a skin layer to an existing licensed windows and Office copy.
  • Put a global process in place for enabling more scripts. We will need to ensure we support additional scripts such as Sinhalese, Yigur, etc. In the long term Kiswahili scripts will be included
  • Natural progression of localization into regional/sub-regional languages and emerging markets. The Language Interface Pack initiative is the natural growth for localization. Microsoft has been involved in localization for the past 15+ years.