03.07.2006 -

Local language computing introduced in UNESCO supported CMCs in Nepal

Information today is an integral part of society and access to it is considered a basic human right. But a large section of the Nepali population is deprived of such access because they cannot overcome the English language barrier.

As part of efforts to bridge this language gap, seventeen trainers and volunteers from UNESCO supported community multimedia centers in Nepal attended a two-day workshop on the application and installation of Nepalinux, an open source operating system. The training will contribute to local language becoming the precursor to bridging the persisting digital and information gap. The training was executed by Madan Puraskar Pusthakalya (MPP) and UNESCO office in Kathmandu.

 

Ethnographic action research (EAR), practiced in all three community multimedia centres (CMCs) in Nepal, shows that lack of English language skills is one of the biggest hurdles in access and use of information communication technologies (ICTs).

 

Without local language solutions, rural and marginalised people in Nepal who do not understand English and other popular languages on the internet will remain isolated from new information, education and knowledge resources. "The introduction of local language ICTs interfaces and programmes will benefit the common Nepali people," says Binita Shrestha, one of the CMC computer trainers.

 

Skills from this workshop will help trainers and CMC and telecentre users to not only access the internet but also to create local language content.

 

"The training was useful in the sense that I will be able to teach computers to Nepali speaking people and they can access content from the internet without any external support," says Ramesh Karki, a trainer from the Buddhanagar centre of the Lumbini CMC.

 

Nepalinux is a free open source software (FOSS) meaning that the software's source code is open and other developers have the freedom to use, study, modify and redistribute according to their and others' needs. Nepalinux comes packaged with a set of software products including GNOME, Open Office and the Mozilla suite as well as other utilities that include a Nepali language spellchecker, thesaurus and Nepali Unicode support.

 

"In the past, I was involved in many places for this sort of training, but the skill and exposure of the CMC trainees surprised me. They had good skill and knowledge on computers, which actually made our work look very simple," says Ekta Silwal, a Nepalinux trainer from Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP).

 

MPP is the principal archive of books and periodicals in the Nepali language, the mother tongue and or lingua franca of a little over 30 million people in South Asia. MPP manages the largest archive in the Nepali language and supports the use of Nepali for the social, economic and cultural advancement of all Nepalis.




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