Action for Global Information Sharing

Do you know people who are quitting their job because they are about to get paid for it, because their outstanding performance is to be made public, or because they are not given enough work? What about people who care that what they are doing has meaning, whose motivation is a cause, instead of a pay raise, promotion or easy ride?

Hundreds of volunteers who signed up with The Rosetta Foundation told us exactly that about themselves and their motivation to join and support the Foundation. Their cause? Making access to knowledge in every language a reality.

We started last year, when the Localisation Research Centre (LRC) and the President of the University of Limerick (UL) Prof. Don Barry, supported by the Irish Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), launched The Rosetta Foundation and hosted the first Action for Global Information Sharing (AGIS) event in Limerick (www.agis09.org). Our intention was to create a global meeting, learning and networking space for translation and localisation professionals whose first motivation was to share knowledge in every language, not short-term financial return on investment for a private business.

Over the past week, well over 100 like-minded people from around the world met at the second AGIS event in Delhi, India (www.agis10.org). They came from Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe to discuss knowledge sharing across languages – no business case required. The event was hosted by the TDIL (Technology Development for Indian Languages) programme of the Department of Communications and IT, Government of India. Its Director Ms. Swaran Lata has been a long time supporter of this initiative, which this year was coordinated by the GIST programme of the Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Pune; the LRC of the University of Limerick and the CNGL project; and, last but not least, by The Rosetta Foundation. During the week prior to AGIS ’10, The Institute of Localisation Professionals (TILP) ran their international Certified Localisation Professional (CLP) training program for the first time in India.

You might be asking yourself, “Why AGIS, why YALC (yet another localisation conference)? What makes AGIS so different?” Well, first of all, it is not owned by any particular organisation, it is not run for profit, and it is (almost) free to attend. Then, it takes place where people need localisation, not where people are rich enough to pay for it. Nothing is sold, nothing is bought at AGIS. And last but not least, AGIS attendees have a social agenda, not (just) a commercial one.

Truly remarkable people have been making a point in supporting the AGIS event this year by making key contributions to the programme:

  • Swaran Lata is heading up India’s push to bring knowledge and information to the 1.2 billion people of India
  • Mahesh Kulkarni is the Director of India’s GIST programme which develops and distributes language technologies for Indic languages free-of-charge to the masses
  • Vijay Bhatkar, the “father” of India’s Super Computing programme, spoke about the need for localisation and translation services for India’s 22 official languages
  • The President of the Indian Translators’ Association Ravi Kumar
  • Ravi Gupta, one of India’s foremost film and media executives
  • Arjuna Rao Chavala of Wikipedia
  • Prof. Pat Hall, international advisor to the CNGL
  • Kartik Taneja of Verisign
  • Kirti Vashee of Asia Online, one of the world’s leading MT and multilingual content providers
  • Dwayne Bailey from Africa’s ANLoc programme, contributed the African perspective.

Probably the most impressive contributions in my mind, however, were made by the more than a dozen young researchers of CDAC and the LRC/CNGL. They presented their work, including The Rosetta Foundation soon-to-be Community Portal and LRC’s/CNGL’s Solas, the Service-oriented localisation architecture solution. They showed such fervour and commitment that there is no shadow of a doubt in my mind that our movement will soon be served by a global open technology platform under the umbrella of The Rosetta Foundation.

The last speaker of AGIS ’10 was Ms. Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT and Science & Technology Division (ISTD) of the UN’s Economic Division for Africa (ECA). She highlighted the global role of AGIS and, especially, its importance for the people of Africa. It is no coincidence that AGIS ’11 will be hosted by Ms. Opoku-Mensah’s organisation in Addis Ababa in October 2011 and launched at the UN’s meeting on Development Information, Science and Technology in May 2011 by Ms. Opoku-Mensah and myself.

The US-President, Barak Obama, once said that “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

To borrow from another famous American, Arlo Guthrie, from his famous song Alice’s Restaurant: If just one or two people were involved, they might say that we were crazy; if it was 20 or 30 of us who would do it, they might say it was a conspiracy; but if hundreds or thousands, imagine: thousands of us did it, then, my friends, they will realize that it is a movement! We are no longer prepared to wait; we are the change we have been waiting for; we are the movement that is taking Action for Global Information Sharing. No more, no less.

Do your part. Join us in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for AGIS ’11.

Note: My very special thanks go to Mr. Mahesh Kulkarni, who has been a long time friend and source of inspiration. It was his team in Pune and Delhi who made AGIS ’10 happen. His hospitality, dedication, conviction, and energy are unparalleled. The website for AGIS ’11 will go live in January 2011. In the meantime, join AGIS ’11 on Facebook.

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