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OSS apps keep up to date in SA's 11 languages

By   |  February 22, 2007

In celebration of International Mother Tongue Language Day on February 21 has relaunched updated versions of all their mother tongue software in all 11 of South Africa’s languages. Further good news is that the Department of Communications, CSIR and have committed to updating and maintaining translations of, Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird for three years.

“It is time that South Africans took pride in their mother tongues and worked towards bringing technology into their world as opposed to trying to adapt their world to technology. Mother Tongue Language Day is an appropriate time to celebrate this – and the Department of Communications, the CSIR and are doing just that – celebrating our freedom,” said Dwayne Bailey, director of

This three year project entails the translation of the user interfaces of each new release. In addition to this, there is an ongoing review process to improve the work that has already been done. As Bailey explained, they will often look to see if more appropriate words can be used to replace existing ones on the various translated interfaces. The team also accept suggestions and contributions from the public, which can be submitted on the website.

All of’s software is open source and can be downloaded freely off their website. This helps to make it more accessible to people, especially in rural communities, who cannot afford to pay for expensive software packages.

“We are doing it to increase access to technology and increase ICT skills and awareness, which will help to narrow the digital divide. Government is committed to creating a better life and more opportunities for each citizen and this is a tangible way to do that,” explained Wernher Friedrich, director of Internet access and software development in the Department of Communications.

These translations support government’s policy of support for open source software and have already helped in the CSIR’s migration from proprietary software to

“South Africa needs to stop supporting the overseas IT industry by sending millions of Rand to the so-called developed world in unnecessary licensing fees. It’s time!” added Bailey.

Previous work by includes a keyboard that caters for all of South Africa’s languages and translated versions of in all 11 South African languages.

In recognition of their valuable work to the country, won the 2006 ICT African Achievers Award for bridging the digital divide.


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