Deployment Guide/Localization

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4. Localization

Almost every aspect of the one laptop per child system is amenable to localization and customization. The list below highlights features that can be customized, along with examples of such from our experiences in the field.


OLPC offers a range of regional keyboards, with the option of creating new ones if required for new deployments.

Keyboard requirements vary wildly by region. For example:

  • A single combined English and Amharic keyboard is supplied to Ethiopia, Amharic being the only Ethiopic language supported at this time.
  • For both Nigeria and Afghanistan, OLPC has designed keyboards to support with multiple major language groups.
  • In other regions such as the Indian subcontinent, supporting all major language groups through one keyboard is impractical; multiple keyboards will be required to give broad coverage.

Check the Keyboard category to see if there is already a keyboard design that would suit your deployment. If not, you need to submit your own design.


OLPC encourages translation as a community sport, and operates a Pootle Server to coordinate such efforts.

As the in-country team, it is up to you to establish satisfactory translations of OLPC's operating system and activities. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Contact OLPC to get your language set up on Pootle, if it is not there already
  2. Establish a team of translators to translate the operating system and selected activities
  3. Perform the translation, regularly testing progress
  4. Finalize the translation and establish some kind of sign-off on the final results
  5. Arrange for your translation to be included in a specific OS build, or deploy using language packs

There are various translation-related articles scattered throughout the wiki, including:

Unfortunately, the quality, correctness and present-day relevance of these articles varies significantly (we would appreciate help reorganising this content). In the mean time, we recommend the following resources to learn how to perform translations:

Other considerations

  • Content, including texts, dictionaries, documentation, etc. can all be localized. OLPC maintains a wiki (a community-editable website) with numerous materials, guides, etc. that may already be translated. Also, the various in-country deployment teams have prepared materials that they are generally willing to share. Please ask OLPC for pointers to potentially useful materials.
    • Some materials will necessarily need to be localized in country. For example, Linux currently has no spelling dictionary for Igbo. Not to be deterred, the children at the Galadima school in Abuja wrote one themselves. One sub-goal of OLPC is self-sufficiency—localization is by definition a local problem—the open nature of our system enables community involvement and ownership.
    • The voice model used by the laptop's speech synthesizer supports approximately 50 languages; developing new models is somewhat tedious, but may be worth the investment, as text-to-speech is a useful tool for both learning to read and accessibility.
  • The base software system distributed on the laptop can also be customized to some extent. OLPC has developed a mechanism where by the collection of “activities” and content “bundles” loaded onto the laptop can be readily pre-configured. It is also reasonably easy to reconfigure in the field. It is the responsibility of the in-country deployment team to determine which activities beyond the core set distributed by OLPC should be included on the laptop. While OLPC does QA on the core activities, it is advised that in-country QA be done on any additional activities to be bundled with the base system. (Most activities are developed by volunteers from the open source community—the translations and the activities themselves must be tested in country as part of your evaluation as to what to activities to ship with the laptops.) Electronic books—PDF, DOC, HTML, etc.—and other media can be pre-loaded onto the laptop as a content bundle. Please consult with OLPC regarding pre-loaded content preparation.
  • Reverse Localization is another important concept. Many sites build web-pages to describe their experiences in their local language. These pages can provide important feedback to OLPC and other deployments, but only if the language barrier can be lowered. There are some easy steps that can be taken to make such pages as accessible as possible to other language communities, which makes them even more valuable.

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