Skype gets an Uzbek interface, helps bridge digital divide

Jun 20, 2012
4 Comments

The world’s most popular IP telephony and text messenger application now has an Uzbek interface thanks to an Uzbek blogger. Skype, which is not an open source platform, and whose official list of available languages had not been updated with the new language versions in almost two years, still permits anyone to extract the language file and localize the interface.

The official list of languages. It had not been updated for a while

 

The localization is pretty simple: you open the language editor, look over the English original to the left and add the localization in the right column.

The language editor. To localize Skype, you just need to translate the right column from English to your native language.

 

When the file is ready, you can’t add it automatically to the official list of languages. What you can do  is spread the newly-made file as widely as possible and make it available for download from as many locations as you can (file exchange service, cloud servers, news sites, etc. ). Anyone can then download and use it, following these steps: Tools->Change language ->Load language file. And who cares that it is not officially supported?

The Uzbek version of Skype is now available for download on Fergananews.com.

Because of the simplicity of the process, it may not be regarded as important or deserving attention. But I believe it is. The Uzbek localization of Skype was conducted by one person in a month – easy! I have localized Skype myself into Belarusian in five weeks.

Online users usually know a bit of Russian and English, but the absence of content in their native language is something that impedes widespread usage of online technologies, especially by older people. The availability of languages is a problem contributing to the digital divide between the young people, who know or understand  some foreign languages, and their parents and elders, especially in the countryside who speak no English and  little Russian.

Some young people might not regard language as important, but it matters for the older generations.  In some villages in Belarus, the local authorities, in collaboration with the Belarusian Post, the UN International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN), and other organizations, have opened public Internet access points in local libraries. According to the librarians, the older people simply would not go to the IT centers because there is no one there devoting time to work with them. The elderly experience problems  understanding the concept of search, and the Latin script scares them, as I can tell from personal experience in teaching a 55+ group how to use search engines.

And now imagine: Elderly people approaching a computer, which is something unknown to them, launching the system and seeing their language everywhere! It would definitely be a comforting and encouraging sight, making it easier for them to take the next step.

Of the Central Asian countries, not one language  is present in the Google Translate. Shouldn’t GT become the next tool to be updated? It would help bridge the digital divide even more effectively than establishing free Internet access points in remote areas of the Central Asian countries. You may have a computer – but what do you need it for if there is no content in your language?

(Front page image courtesy Wikicommons user Stomac)


About the Author

Alaksiej Lavoncyk

Alaksiej Lavonczyk is a media activist and social media expert from Minsk, Belarus. He had been in charge of the training projects for the NGOs and media on building their capacity in online campaigning and end-user security. Alaksiej had also acted as a consulting and technical expert for NGOs and media in Belarus and four countries of Central Asia (except Turkmenistan) on upgrading media/NGO websites to meet contemporary standards, and on their promotion online. Alaksiej is also running an online training centre for the Central Asians preparing the specialists in SMO promotion.
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