ETHIOPIAN LANGUAGES

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Computer Standards for Ethiopia

This project was carried out within Initiative B@bel with the Ethiopian Computer Standards Association (ECoSA) to support efforts aimed at developing and supporting the implementation of multilingual policicies.
Computer Standards for EthiopiaEthiopic is the name given to the script used by Ethiopians and Eritreans to write in the major languages of the region. Amharic, the official language of the Federal government of Ethiopia and Tigrigna, the official language of Eritrea and one of the major languages of northern Ethiopia, are two examples of languages that use Ethiopic. Most of the Semitic languages and some of the Cushitic languages of the region have also adopted this script.

Even though this script has served Ethiopians for more than a millennium, it is being marginalized from the digital environment due to some standardization issues that have not been adequately handled. As a result, all the users of the script are also being marginalized:

In the absence of a standard Ethiopic character encoding system, Ethiopian software companies have been developing Ethiopic based software products that are mutually incompatible.

Due to the lack of a keyboard standard, every Ethiopic based software developer comes with its own keyboard layout.

Unless access to ICTs is given to the majority of the population, the impact that these technologies can have will be very limited. Indeed it is clear that no popularization can be successful unless the users can access the tools in their own maternal language.

A contract has been established with the Ethiopian Computer Standards Association (ECSA) to develop standards for:

  • Ethiopic characters encoding,

  • Keyboard layout,

  • Transliteration of Amharic to the Latin alphabet.

    Early in 2003 a multi-million-government computerization project sponsored by the World Bank will be carried out; the development and adoption of these standards could serve to enhance this project's success. Consequently, the Government has entered a formal agreement with the Initiative B@bel to ensure speedy access to the results of this work.