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UNICODE Locales for African Languages

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Unicode Consortium is partnering with ANLoc, the African Network for Localization, a project sponsored by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), to help extend modern computing on the African continent. ANLoc's vision is to empower Africans to participate in the
digital age by enabling their languages in computers. A sub-project of ANLoc, called Afrigen (http://www.it46.se/afrigen), focuses on creating African locales. During the last 12 months, no fewer than 150 volunteers have teamed up with Afrigen-ANLoc, and gathered locale data for 72 African languages. The Afrigen-ANLoc data collection tool was developed by Louise Berthilson of IT46 (http://www.it46.se), and the project is managed by Martin Benjamin, director of Kamusi Project International (http://kamusi.org).

According to Ethnologue (http://www.ethnologue.com), there are an estimated 2,100 living languages spoken in Africa. The Afrigen-ANLoc project's stated mission is to create viable locale data for at least 100 of the many languages that are spoken in Africa, and upstream the data to Unicode Consortium's Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR http://cldr.unicode.org) project and OpenOffice.org. Implementation of fundamental locale data within CLDR is a critical step for providing computer applications that can be localized into these African languages, thus reaching a population that has perhaps never before had the ability to use their native languages on computers and mobile phones.

Unicode CLDR provides key building blocks for software to support the world's languages. Unicode CLDR is by far the largest and most extensive standard repository of locale data. This data is used by a wide spectrum of companies for their software internationalization and localization: adapting software to the conventions of different languages for such common software tasks as formatting of dates, times, time zones, numbers, and currency values; sorting text; choosing languages or countries by name; transliterating different alphabets; and many others.

The upcoming 1.8 release of CLDR will incorporate data for a total of 54 different African languages. 41 of these languages are completely new to the CLDR project, while 13 others existed in CLDR and were enhanced with additional data. These languages are spoken in 26 different countries
spreading across the entire African continent. The Afrigen-ANLoc project selected approximately 200 candidate languages, including all official languages recognized by a national government and all languages with at least 500,000 native speakers; additional languages are also incorporated in the project when volunteers step forward. Data is collected through the Afrigen-ANLoc project by native-speaking volunteers around the world, and entered via a web-based utility designed specifically for this purpose. The data is then reviewed for accuracy and merged into the CLDR repository.

"The partnership with Afrigen has been a huge benefit for us," says John Emmons, vice-chair of the Unicode CLDR technical committee and lead CLDR engineer for IBM. "The Afrigen effort has allowed us to bring many new languages on board that we wouldn't be able to do through our normal
process, while still maintaining the level of quality and consistency that we require for every language."

For more information about the Unicode CLDR project (including charts) see http://cldr.unicode.org.

IDRC is a Crown corporation created by the Parliament of Canada in 1970 to help developing countries use science and technology to find practical, long-term solutions to the social, economic, and environmental problems they face. Its support is directed toward creating a local research community whose work will build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies. For more information
about IDRC, please see http://www.idrc.ca.

For more information about the Afrigen-ANLoc project see http://www.it46.se/afrigen

For more information about the African Network for Localization see http://www.africanlocalisation.net


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