The Kilinux Project

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 2004-2005

Kilinux is the Open Swahili Localization Project started by the joint effort between the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the Swedish IT consultancy company IT +46. The project has gathered a multidisciplinary team composed by members of the Department of Computer Science and the Institute of Swahili Research. This pioneering effort does not only aim to localize free and open source software to the Swahili language, but also create awareness among swahili speakers of the benefits of using and extending open source software.

This project is supported by the UDSM and the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA).

The project specification included five activities whereas the consultanct was main responsible for:

  • Preparation of training
  • Training course
  • Localization methodology
  • Coordination of main translation components
  • Integration of results, development of auxiliary tools and release of software

Activity 1: Preparation of training

Purchase and ordering of required equipment. Preparation of Lab environment (Internet connectivity, software installation). Re-patching of Department of Computer Science server room. Survey and testing of existing localization tools.

Activity 2: Training course

The technical team of the project received a three-week training during September 2004. The training included:
  • Introduction to Linux and basic shell commands.
  • Introduction to Networking
  • Installation of Redhat 9
  • Installation of Nanoblogger (blog for website)
  • Introduction to firewalling
  • Introduction to localization tools, gettext and poedit.

During the workshop in Arusha 1st-5th of November, the technical team received a second training focused on:

  • Methodology, goals and milestones of the project during the first year.
  • Auxiliary Resources for localization teams.
  • Localization Environment and its tools
  • Integrating auxiliary resources into a localization environment.

Activity 3: Localization methodology

The methodology of the localization effort has been documented in the project website ( During the 150 working days since the localization project started a total of 60 articles has been posted by the consultant into the website (an average of one posting every 3 days).

The postings document the whole methodology followed to localize from the first day of the project. The website is now available to any other localization effort as a working reference.

Activity 4: Coordination of main translation components

A description of all the coordination and implementation activities where the consultant has taken a main role is described in chronological order:

September 2004

Application of language ID to localization coordinator. Swahili is assigned the internal Language ID number 25 for the OpenOffice 1.x series. For compatibility reasons we will be forced to use the Microsoft Locale ID 1089/441hex that Microsoft has assigned to Swahili for Kenya.

The Sun Microsystems JCA (Joint Copyright Agreement) has been signed by the technical coordinator of the Kilinux project which implies the the Kilinux team has agreed to contribute code to the OpenOffice under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). The Swahili localization effort for will be released as Open Source Software.

The English Latin fonts have been assigned to the Swahili language for

The launching of the Kilinux project took place the 29th of September at at the Council Chamber at the University of Dar es Salaam. During the launching, the methodology and the first results of the project were presented.

The training of the technical team took place at the University of Dar es Salaam.

October 2004

The actual localization work of 1.1.3 into Swahili started. The localization tool chosen for the project is poEdit.

The newly developed Swahili IT Glossary was used as the initial translation memory in poEdit for the localization work.

The first version of a build system that can compile OpenOffice 1.1.3 with Swahili strings under Linux is released.

The Swahili locale sw_TZ.xml that standardizes the way to represent dates, times, days of the week, bank symbols etc is submitted to OpenOffice central repository.

First contacts with Unicode and the Common Data Locale Repository are made in order to standardize the proposal in an International Standardization Forum.

November 2004

A special Debug Build is released that allows to track the position of any string inside of

The Debug Build is made available in the website to other localization teams

December 2004

The 4th of December, the Linux development version of Jambo Office is released. This release was Build 14 and was the first public release. It contained 118 out of 174 PO files. A press release was included.

The 10th of December Build 16 is released. The new release containes two major improvements: the Swahili locale and Jambo Spellchecker . A second press released was included.

The 12th of December, Built17 was completed containing the Installer in Swahili. This release contained 142 out of 177 PO files (81%) and 15730 out of 18080 strings (87%).

Note: Each Build implies a qualitative change to the original OpenOffice source code. It implies a full recompilation of the source code and an average of 20 hours computing time.

January 2005

The work to build a Windows version of Jambo started (Sweden). The plan was to have a fully functional build system for Linux and Win32 by the middle of February 2005.

Since a number of volunteers expressed their interest to evaluate the development releases, we decided to make the development repository freely available. From the 19th of January, all the internal releases of Jambo OpenOffice (Windows and Linux) could be downloaded for the Tanzanian Internet Exchange (TIX).

February 2005

The work to develop an innovative mechanism to update a Win32 build using GNU/Linux was under progress The goal was to be able to update the Linux and Win32 versions of Jambo OpenOffice just using GNU/Linux.

The new build system (Jambo PJ4) that uses an already compiled version of Jambo OpenOffice under Win32 and merge the updates of the localized strings (resource files) just using free software is released. This represents the first build system in the world that only uses free software to update Win32

By having a dual (Win32/Linux) build system running in one Linux machine we aimed to re-build Jambo OpenOffice in less than two hours using a Dual Xeon Server.

Activity 5: Integration of results, development of auxiliary tools and release of software

A description of all the integration and development of auxiliary tools done by IT+46 is described in chronological order:

September 2004

The first version of the Swahili IT glossary, consisting of approx. 700 words were completed and volunteers were requested to review and grade the glossary. Guidelines for grading were sent out to suitable mailing lists and forums. Ten people participated in the grading process and the result were evaluated by the linguistic experts.

The website was up and running after the Spanish non-profit content and service Provider Nodo50 kindly offered to host the site.

October 2004

The final version of the first Swahili IT glossary were released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. It was freely available to download without any need of registering or signing a non-disclosure agreement.

The fist version of KiPot 1.0, an open source (GNU) discussion tool developed to support the localization of OpenOffice by our Open Swahili Localization team was officially released. KiPot 1.0 was aimed to facilitate a fluent communication channel between the technical team and the linguists which was needed to create an efficient working environment.

The partnership between the Kilinux project and the Kamusi Project Internet Living Swahili Dictionary, based at the Yale University Council on African Studies begun.

A Tanzanian mirror server was implemented for the Kamusi Project. The server synchronizes data regularly with the main Kamusi server in the US, and provides local access to the project to all Tanzanian IP addresses. This mirror server will greatly increase the speed and reduce the costs of connecting Tanzanians to the Kamusi Project.

November 2004

Release of four tools that aim to help the localization of free and open source software. All tools are released under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License.

- KiPot 1.1 : KiPot is a discussion tool developed to support the localization of free and open source software. KiPot is an online discussion board that enables the communication between technical and linguistic experts. The tool aims to facilitate the development of new glossaries.

- KiChapa 0.1 : KiChapa is a Multilingual Search-Engline based on OpenOffice 1.1.3m47 localization work. KiChapa is a front-end to a relational database that contains every string that has been translated in OpenOffice 1.1.3. The current version supports: English, Spanish, French, Swedish and German.

- KamusiTZ 0.1 : KamusiTZ is our first mirror version of Kamusi Project Internet Living Swahili Dictionary, based at the Yale University Council on African Studies. KamusiTZ is a light-weighted implementation of Yale's Swahili Online Dictionary. KamusiTZ 0.1 is currently implementing search and data syncronization functionalities.

- IkakiSpell 0.1 : Ikakispell is a client-server software that allows a third party application to spellcheck a word or a set of words against a Microsoft Office 2003 dictionary. IkakiSpell is composed of a Win32 C#/VB .NET Server (ikakispelld) and a Perl Client (ikakispellc).

December 2004

The first public release of a free office suite in Swahili. The product is called Jambo Open Office and contains approx. 80% of the strings translated to Swahili. This version of Jambo OpenOfficecan only be run in Linux. A full version (100% translated) that will run both in Linux and Win32 are planned for February 2005.

The release got media coverage worldwide which have been summarized here:

On the Tanzania Independence Day (9th of December) a new edition of a Swahili spellchecker that works natively with Jambo was released. The spellchecker has been developed as the result of the compilation of numerous Swahili word lists. Jambo Spellchecker contains a total of 70.000 Swahili words.

In time for Christmas, the 23rd of December, TuxPaint, a free and open source software for children, was release in Swahili. The was the first release ever of computer software for children in Swahili. TuxPaint in Swahili was the result of the collaboration between the Kamusi Project at Yale University and IT +46.

February 2005

The preparation of the final release of Jambo was started.

A Mirroring system for the software is implemented.

The 21st of February, the software is available as "The Open Swahili Localization Project CD" in Tanzania, Netherlands, Sweden and USA.

Open Swahili Localization Project CD contains:

  • Jambo OpenOffice 1.1.3 Linux (Swahili)
  • OpenOffice 1.1.3 Win32 (English) with Swahili Spellchecker
  • OpenOffice 1.1.3 Linux (English) with Swahili Spellchecker
  • Tuxpaint Win32 (Swahili and English)
  • Tuxpaint Linux (Swahili and English)
  • Kilinux Swahili IT Glossary
  • Training Material for Glossary Development (Swahili)
  • Jambo Spellchecker (Swahili Free Spellchecker)

The official release of Jambo will take place the 28th February 2005 at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Media coverage and visibility

The media coverage has been extensive all through the project. In December, when the first version of Jambo OpenOffice,org was released, the project website ( had an average of 6000 hits per day and a maximum rate of 15 000 hits the 8th of December 2004.

  • During December 2004, hosts from 90 different countries visited
  • There exists over 2000 online documents that references to Jambo
  • The Open Swahili Localization Project is the first reference to "swahili localization" on the Internet.

Some of the articles that have been published about the Kilinux project:

IT+46 estimates a final work load of 226 full working days (1812 working hours) in the whole project.

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