It is quite unusual, but sometimes dreams work just as planned. This has been the case of the KhmerOS project during its first year. We decided to try create basic software in Khmer by localizing Open Source Software... and we have done it. We now have free high quality applications in Khmer for word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, browser, presentation tool, webmail, chat... and a few others (see details). We are also finishing training materials and documentation in Khmer for all these applications. But this is only the first part of our plan. Now we start our distribution stage on MS Windows platform (all applications we have localised work on both Windows and Linux), while we prepare a full Linux distribution. The best news is that the Government of Cambodia has now decided to advance on Open Source, following the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Sok An, and we are working hand-in-hand with NiDA, the National Information Communication Development Authority. We have participated in the creation of an Open Source Master Plan for the country, which has now been published by NiDA, and we are now working with them on the preparation of an Open Source Action Plan that will implement the calendar and philosophy of the Master Plan. Some parts of the Action Plan, specially the ones related to localization and creation of training materials will most probably be directly assigned to Open Forum within the Action Plan. We are also preparing a student-certification program for all the new Khmer applications. With this we hope to create an environment in which:
Students can compare the cost of studying towards a specific certificate in different locations/academies. Non-standardised training does not permit comparison. Certification produces healthy competition between training centres with clear rules.
In our plan, a team at Open Forum will be providing training for trainers to existing computer teachers. We are also in touch with computer vendors, to assure that new computers have our applications pre-installed, while an internal team will travel the country installing applications in any computer they can get their hands on. But this is only our part of the work. NiDA is taking Open Source very serious, and contacting different Ministries in charge of training school teachers and vocational training instructors, so that the training structures of the state will also participate in the dissemination of Khmer language Open Source Software. We could not be happier about how everything is developing. We set ourselves one year ago to do something that many people considered impossible, and we have done it so far. Our team at Open Forum grew from two engineers/translators in February 2004 to six in August 2005. The have really worked as a team and have got amazing amounts of work done. We have been counting also with the help of typographer Danh Hong, and the technical work of Jens Herden, who has given us technical training and has developed support for Khmer script in all Linux platforms, created keyboards and done many things that would have been very difficult to accomplish without him. We have been congratulated several times on the quality of his work by Open Source project maintainers. We have been able to accomplish this work in spite of severe budget restrictions, as we have not been able to find any major sponsor or donor for our work. We were able to start thanks to the generous help of some private donors, and we have maintained our operations going scrapping money here and there, and we will probably be able to continue doing it at our present size during a few months, but we definitely need to find some funds in order to carry on our distribution and training campaign. We received a small grant from APDIP, ISOC, AMIC, APNIC and IDRC to develop an "Open Source Localization Toolkit" building on our experience, so that it could be shared with other countries. What started as a pure documentation project very soon took us directly into the hearth of some projects with direct participation. By preparing documentation for projects like the "Translate Toolkit" and "OpenOffice", we have helped define new simpler localization mechanisms for OpenOffice and other projects, helping the move towards an standardized Localization Framework for Open Source. The fact is that until now there has not existed a comprehensive approach to Open Source localization, in which the goals are social, so the project goes much deeper than pure translation, assuring that the final users actually benefit from it. On this we are the first country following such approach, and it seems to work and worth sharing with others. We have been directly supporting other countries on their localization efforts at all levels: from a strategic localization plan for East Timor to day-to-day technical help for countries like Nepal, Lao or Bhutan. We work very closely with a team in South Africa to improve localisation techniques. I have personally participated in several localization events, such as AsiaSource, where I was a facilitator on localization, or the Asia OSS Symposium, where I chaired the localization working group. We really hope that this year our plan will continue in the same direction, turning Cambodia - before the end of 2005 - into the first country that will have more users of Open Source applications than users of Microsoft. Javier SolÃ¡ Coordinator - Khmer Software Initiative. 16 March 2005 Technical state of the project