The Great Leap For Bangladesh

Jamil Ahmed, FOSS Advocate joins in from a Dhaka, Bangladesh where he also professionally works as a Project Manager in a local software development firm, "In my free time I lead a small voluntary group named Ankur (www.ankurbangla.org). Along with this, currently I am the maintainer of bn_BD glibc local, Bengali localization for GNOME, GAIM, Open Office.org, Fedora core, Mandriva Linux, SUSE Linux and Debian GNU/Linux installer".

"My core contribution is towards localizing FOSS to Bangla/Bengali and also fix Bangla/Bengali related bugs. It also organizes FOSS seminars, workshops and camps in various local universities and advocates the use of FOSS in various avenues of life. In short, Ankur makes people aware about FOSS, Localizing popular and important FOSS to Bangla/Bengali, Searching and Fixing Bangla/Bengali related bugs in FOSS

The great leap, "Till now we have either localized or are localizing popular GNU/Linux distributions, Open Office suite, Instant Messenger, Firefox Internet Browser, Thunderbird Email Client. The localization process for the volunteers is self-learned and researched carried forward from their remote locations spread out throughout both Bangladesh, India and other countries collaborating and communicating extensively using the Internet. In most of the cases, none of the volunteers have met each other face to face. POT and XML files are used to carryout and add localized version of the language so we download the latest POT files, merge them with the existing ones where needed and start working on it.

Code Freeze, "Generally we work after 'String Freeze' till the deadline to submit translations. During String Freezes, no new developments are added to the codes but only the strings of text in the interface are edited.

Self empowerment, "To facilitate the volunteers we have some automated tools - built by our own volunteers. We have a standard terminology list with localized values."

Machine translator: The translator is written in PERL, it takes an empty PO/T file and auto-translates it using our standard word list.

The Online English to Bangla/Bengali dictionary: It is written in PERL and accessible via the Internet. It uses our standard word list. If there is a missing word in the database, then the user can submit their suggestions that will then be incorporated in the standard database after verification.

English to Bangla/Bengali machine translator: It is written in PERL and has both online and offline versions.

Taking the leap, "We have already released two localized LiveCDs based on Morphix and Knoppix. Also, recently we have released an install version based on Ubuntu but the Desktop will be in the Bangla/Bengali project. The respected ISOs are already hosted and made available through SourceForge. Our focus is to help facilitate the ISO burned onto CDs to users and stakeholders that do not have access to any good or any internet connection. Our team of volunteers also demonstrates the software to different places where we do camps, seminars and demonstrations. During these events participants get very excited to watch localized operating system. Some Government Organizations, NGOs and Nonprofit orgnaizations have an interest for deploying our GNU/Linux distro but we lack the capability to provide them with 24/7 full time or dedicated support and they are doing partial migrations from Windows to FOSS. Generally they use localized OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird or even dualboot as a start.

Needs and wants, "We need to encourage the evolution of a commercial FOSS Ecosystem within the country and establish technical support centres. ICT training centres should provide FOSS training. We need marketing and branding strategies, both International and localized to market and position FOSS making it as visible as the proprietary industry are trying to compete with it. We are also seeking longterm donor support in order to arrange the funds to engage more volunteers throughout the country on a regular basis. e need to arrange FOSS camping/seminar more often.

What works for us, "Members of the Young generation are the ones that are always willing to learn more thus FOSS capacity development efforts should be directed towards students. FOSS promotion and awareness should always involve some aspects of fun and entertrainment for students to be be more usefully engaged. We arrange such camps and seminars on FOSS once in a month at universities. The localization process is always under way. Generally we start working after string freeze of specific FOSS development.

How we benefit others, "We benefit others through helping them gain access to ICTs enabled through FOSS with localized software in particular. The second way is a mutual learning process that basically improves FOSS development including learning new things that general people asks for.

The upcomming challenge, "We are continuously facing the shortage of volunteers and the lack of funding partners to fund our activities so that we may operate in a sustainable manner.

Success factors, "At LinuxAsia 2006 held at Delhi, India - Ankur was awarded best .ORG project. I was also selected to attend the Debian i18n session which held at Extremadura, Spain on Sep 2006 - sponsored by their Local government.

author: Fouad Bajwa