ARUSHA – Implementation of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market Protocol has been made easier with the launching of the third version of the Microsoft 2010 Kiswahili local language package, an official of the EAC has said.

“Although the Common Market Protocol provides for the free movement of capital, goods, services, and has led to increased regional trade but our small and medium scale traders still experience the problem of communicating in Swahili,” said the EAC Secretary-General, Dr. Richard Sezibera.

“Swahili is now the minimum medium of communication and, currently, the lingua franca of the Community. Therefore, the launching of the updated version of the Microsoft 2010 ki-Swahili local language package which can be downloaded on <www.microsoft.com/language> is timely at the time when our traders needed most in order to effectively communicate on a regional basis,” Sezibera said at the launching of the product at Arusha in Tanzania in February.

The version, with over 300,000 words translated into Swahili, is part of the project that has so far cost the company $2m over the last five years. It has been developed as ‘Windows’ and ‘Office’ products in 15 written and spoken languages in Africa: Afrikaans, Amharic, Arabic, English, French, Hausa, Igbo, ki-Swahili, and Portuguese among others.

Sezibera said use of information ICT in the EAC has contributed 40 per cent of the region’s economic growth.

“But ICT is not working in a abstract, and can only be useful to people if it is translated into local languages,” he said at the launching ceremony.

The translated versions in ki-Swahili would lead to improvement in public service delivery, development of the private sector, promote good governance and help in the fight against poverty.

The next phase of the regional economic development will have to depend on the small and medium scale firms (SMEs).

The Microsoft regional education manager, Dr. Mark Matunga, said the technology will play a major role in the maintenance of linguistic diversity in the region.

“All too often, small traders are excluded from information technology skills and the accompanying job and trading opportunities for lack of technology in their local languages, providing a native language is critical to helping people access the tools needed to create better economic opportunities,” he explained. [EABW].