Interview with Reinhard Schäler, Director of the Localisation Research Centre and Founder of The Rosetta Foundation
27 August 2011
GALAxy interviews Reinhard Schäler, the Director of the Localisation Research Centre and Founder of The Rosetta Foundation, who shares with us the vision of the Action for Global Information Sharing (AGIS) conference.
Reinhard, tell us about AGIS – what is it all about?
Well, AGIS stands for “Action for Global Information Sharing." We felt that we needed to collaborate with people outside of mainstream localization. In my mind, it’s like the “fringe” festival where all the cool stuff happens.
Do you want to bring people in developing regions of the world into mainstream localization, provide them with localized content and products?
Do you believe mainstream localization is cool? I think it’s mostly boring and uninspiring. AGIS is not just about providing emergency aid or about bringing our information, our way of life to others. It’s about opening channels of communication, about learning from each other. Those of us living in the money-rich parts of the world often think we have all the solutions for all the problems of the world. There is so much we can learn from our friends in Africa, in Asia, but also from those working with non-mainstream European languages.
Give us a few examples.
The most striking example is the almost exclusive focus on making money in mainstream localization, on financial incentives, on short-term financial profits, on competition. Dan Pink, former Al Gore speechwriter, is one of many leading thinkers who have highlighted that our traditional “carrot and stick” approach is incompatible with the way we work and live. It was people who work for free and give away their products who have created many of the biggest success stories in recent times. Just think about Wikipedia, Linux, or the phenomenal success of blogging. Greg Oxton told his multinational clients years ago to “give up the illusion of control." They are still not listening. They are still trying to control content, products and localization decisions. People outside of the mainstream understand much better than we do the power of collaboration, rather than competition; the power of sharing, rather than controlling. That’s where innovation happens.
When did AGIS start and who is involved?
The first AGIS event took place at the University of Limerick in Ireland in September 2009 and was opened by our President. He not only launched the first ever AGIS event, but also The Rosetta Foundation, an organization offering translation and localization free-of-charge, working with volunteers. Over one hundred people met in the west of Ireland for almost a week to work together, to learn from each other and to have lots of fun. We even went to one of Europe’s most westerly Atlantic islands where people speak Irish as their mother tongue. You can see how it all started on YouTube.
How has AGIS developed since then?
One of our friends, Mahesh Kulkarni from CDAC in Pune, India, was so impressed by the idea that he offered to host the second AGIS event in India in 2010. So we met in Delhi last year and had brilliant sessions with our Indian colleagues about the challenges of giving access to the web in the 23 official languages of India. No business case required. They just made it happen! Many commercial providers still believe that the people of India all speak English when more than 90% only communicate through one of the local languages. Sure, there might not yet be a business case, but our Indian friends have demonstrated that there is a huge demand for local language content and they have responded to this demand.
Tell us about AGIS ’11.
One of our PhD researchers, Solomon Gizaw of Ethiopia, established a contact with the United Nations Economic Division for Africa (UNECA). UNECA’s ICT Director, Aida Opoku-Mensah, then joined us in Delhi and launched AGIS ’11. The event will take place on 01-02 December 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and will be hosted by the United Nations. It will be the first ever global localization event happening in Africa.
Who is organizing the event and how can people join you?
AGIS is organized by a large number of organizations from all over the world, too many to mention here. Have a look at the website www.agis11.org. We are very happy that GALA has decided to support the event this year and that Hans Fenstermacher, GALA Board Chair, will open AGIS ’11 with a keynote. Everybody is welcome and invited. I bet it’s the only free localization event in the world this year!
What can people expect to get out of AGIS ’11?
The most important takeaway from AGIS ’11 for mainstream localizers will be that not only is Africa the birthplace of human language and the most linguistically diverse continent on Earth, Africa is also the continent with the most modern and fastest growing technology infrastructure in the world. Have a look at the economic growth rates of African countries and compare them with those of the USA or Europe. You’ll be surprised. AGIS ’11 will open up the dialog between the mainstream localisation industry and some of the world’s fasted growing economies and most interesting societies. We will launch a number of extremely interesting initiatives at AGIS ’11, including collaboration projects between African, European, American and Asian partners.
What’s next on the agenda?
Two things: Firstly, a new, user-driven approach to localization requires a new highly innovative technology infrastructure and an equally innovative model for sustainability. We are working on both with our colleagues in the Centre for Next Generation Localisation and with friends and colleagues around the world. Secondly, we are already talking to partners who are interested in organizing AGIS ’12. So watch this space. But in the meantime, it’s all go for AGIS ’11, 01-02 December in Addis.
For more information about AGIS '11, please visit www.agis11.org.