Interview: Anousak Souphavanh, Lao Language Project (Native Lang)
As part of our anniversary celebration, I asked the Native Lang leads for email interviews. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the interviews as they come in. Anousak Souphavanh, the Project Lead of the Lao Language Project, which is still under development, generously responded below. The interview was conducted via email 2003-10-10 and lightly edited.
I am working to localize OpenOffice.org to the Lao Language. Many people in Laos are currently excluded from computer use, the Internet, and the World Wide Web by the absence of software in the Lao language, which a majority of Laotians speak. They are living in "informational poverty." A number of software systems of wide use have been localized to various international languages, such as Thai, Chinese, Arabic, etc. However there has been virtually no software localization into the major language of Laos. A Lao-localized version of OpenOffice.org (called Xangdao), which I am working on, would allow them to pursue all the activities they currently are barred from.
Linux is a robust and stable operating system and also freely available. So I have taken the step to localize the Linux operating system. My aim is to design a localized "user friendly" interface at the system level, which looks more natural to the local user. I have also taken steps to localize suitable components within Linux OS (like KDE desktop environment) to enable applications to create, edit and display contents in the Lao language. The availability of local-language software will play a crucial role in the process of taking the benefits of Information Revolution to the local community. In this way I can also prevent the restriction of resource usage, for more will have access to resources.
The people in Laos had to cope with Windows as their main OS and Microsoft Office as the only apps available to them. MS hasn't localized their office suite to Lao because of the small market that exists in Laos. For the first time, people at the lowest and highest levels freely, strongly, and fully support having their own unique OS dubbed Laonux and an office suite like OpenOffice.org (Xangdao)
At this point, we have no economic implications, and we really need to have some kind of funding to help us speed up the work of localizing both KDE and OpenOffice.org.
I strongly believe that localization project of OpenOffice.org will benefit all Laotians at large because a majority of computer users in Laos lack English skills and thus, a Lao version will be essential. Thus, the only requirement for computer users will be a knowledge of Lao language, not a mastery of English.
Everyone benefits from having a localized desktop, including those at the schools, from kindergarten to university, and people at various levels of government; and also, of course, the general public.
Lao OpenOffice.org Team Lead