Microsoft Localizing Kiswahili

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.

Comments (10)

  1. Robert Gakuo says:

    This is a noble idea thanks to Dr Githeko of Egerton University who came up with this idea.This will ease the complications associated with East Africa ‘s esp with the countries where Kiswahili dominates like Tz

  2. Muhati Peter says:

    I would like to assist in the program given that I have an M.A in Kiswahili from the university of

  3. Wonder says:

    I have a glossary of terms in IT translated into Kiswahili which may be discussed for their suitability.Could anybody contact me at ?

    I have done this before on the Online Swahili-English Dictionary which has boosted the dictionary.

  4. Barry Dale says:

    The Microsoft language program is really being driven by the major successes seen in Free Software localisation. Otherwise these languages would have been done ages ago, they have been doing this for 15 years.

    I’m not sure I understand the phrase "help build a robust local IT economy", I don’t see the connection. A more robust IT economy would be formed by localising products such as which are truely Free and can stimulate the legal adoption of ICT and build local skills that don’t require the export of dollar revenue.

    I would rather see African countries localise Free Software. Instead we are seeing people prostituting themselves and localising software at institutions supported by taxpayers money. Would they do that for any other IT firm?

    The language does benefit, that I am sure, but I question the often toughted economic benefit. Essentially they are supporting the continued entrenchment of Microsoft products when by localising a Free Software package they could stimulate a vibrant IT economy that is not merely an implementor if first world solutions.

    It would be truely alruistic if Microsoft would fund the localisation of in parrallel with their own products. Then I would be happy about their true motivation. They won’t, so I think I understand it well. Get people hooked on our products now so that when the economy is at a level at which we can enforce licensing then they’re hooked and they have to pay. Not sure how that stimulates an economy? Ask the Bulgarians about their experience of software police. Lets rather throw off the shackels now use Free Software and become world leaders in this software instead of the also rans reliant on developed world technology once again.

    So localise NOW.

  5. Kenyan says:

    Now 1.1.2 has swahili by default, try it out its fun. Using tax payers money to import proprietary technology (microsoft) while all these can be provided for locally (Linux and OpenOfice) is a total waste of economic recovery efforts.

    Linux Rocks.

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