Language/localization in Tanzania's ICT policy

Don Osborn dzo at
Thu Apr 2 19:16:12 UTC 2009

I continue to work on localization ("L10n") policy as an emerging area of
policy action and studies that overlaps largely with language policy on the
one hand, and information and communications technology (ICT) policy on the


In a recent perusal of a March 2003 document of the Tanzanian Ministry of
Communications and Transport entitled "National Information and
Communications Technologies Policy" I noted several mentions of language and
complementary aspects of culture and community that represent complementary
(to translation) aspects of localization.


Typically from what I read of ICT policy, local languages are mentioned in
the context of relevance of content and production of local content, but not
language as an access issue (access is often read narrowly in terms of
physical access to ICT and not the broader sense that incorporates also how
people can interact with the software and input systems that may be in
languages they do not know so well).


The ICT policy document is available at 


Some excerpts:


(2.3.2 Locally relevant content) "... Despite the innovation of relatively
few websites, the Web has yet to become a dominant medium for society to
communicate, particularly because of the few websites that are in Kiswahili.
However, an encouraging phenomenon is that Kiswahili is recognised as being
the African language with the greatest Web presence."


(3.9.1 Local content - Issues)  "... ICT needs to be a conveyor of locally
relevant messages and information, providing opportunities for local people
to interact and communicate with each other, expressing their own ideas,
knowledge, heritage and culture in their own languages. Local content should
also be perceived as a driver for local job and wealth creation."


(3.9.3 Local content - Policy Challenges) ...

"ii. Repackaging traditions, cultures, indigenous knowledge, and traditional
wisdom arts as

potential multimedia content."

"iv. Promotion of electronic publishing of local materials."

"vi. Using the Kiswahili language for content creation."

"viii. Promotion of community participation in initiatives for compiling
local content."


(3.9.4 Local content - Policy Statements) 

"1. The Government will promote the use of the ICT for preserving and
dissemination of

indigenous knowledge and traditional cultures."

"3. The Government will encourage the wider use of Kiswahili in developing
local content in

order to promote local culture, attract local end users as well as the
Tanzanian diaspora."


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