AGIS conference: a localizer’s experience

Jeff Beatty

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Mohomodou Houssouba, a localizer from Mali, recently attended the AGIS conference in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia. I’ve asked him to describe his experience at the conference to share it with all of you. Here’s an update straight from Africa:

AGIS (Action for Global Information Sharing) is largely driven by the Localization Research Center at Limerick (Ireland). The next meeting will be in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was not directly a Mozilla representative there but to a large extent presenting the Mozilla localization work done within the ANLoc project is part of the game of self-profiling in such contexts. I actually went purposely to meet other members of the Pan-African Online Dictionary project. Songhay is one of the first 7-8 languages in the early test phase. The meeting happened on November 30, after a half day spent visiting the Addis Ababa University: the Department of Linguistics at the College of Humanities, the PhD Program in Computational Linguistics at the College of Informatics and Human Language Technology. I got to meet some of the professors and PhD students later during the conference. They do admirable work (research) but localization remains a fairly under-explored territory. Fortunately, many younger participants seemed awakened to the stakes. There were also many in attendance.

Dec 1-2, the conference itself. High-level speakers from Europe, Africa and the United States.

In Mali, I wanted to meet with officials about Mozilla localization issues. Dwayne Bailey and I talked about finding niches for students at Malian colleges to engage in localization efforts against small grants. I also wanted to meet up with the chair of the African Academy of Languages (an African Union institution based in Bamako). He was also in Addis. But, with teaching, I really didn’t have a lot of time. I had one good, high-level meeting. I am planning to go back to Bamako for a few days in early February and hold meetings prearranged in this regard. I am attending mostly for the closing ceremony of the literary festival in which our Songhay writing contest will figure. We launched it in October and got some interesting literary writings (play writing, poetry, translation, short short stories). The winning texts will receive their awards at the same ceremony with modest prizes. The collaboration should be a good way of putting content creation in the spotlight and have people take the production of content in national languages seriously.

There is a relatively new Ministry of (Basic) Education, Literacy and National Languages, which, so far, had not declared any specific mission or vision for human language technology development and localization. But I led one localization training in Bamako in December 2010, and I had a really great experience with enthusiastic young participants. I’ve kept in touch with them. I also have a full session in July at the Mali Symposium on Applied Sciences.

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