status of Lao Localization by ashrafp


									                                                                                               Information Technology Center
Information Technology Center
Science Technology and Environment Agency of Lao PDR

                                  The Status of Lao Localization
                             Phonpasit PHISSAMAY, National Project Director


Information Communication Technology (ICT) offers a means of flexibly publishing and disseminating
information (via print, Internet, CD-Room) that can have an important impact on social and economic
development. However, the use of these digital tools still remains awkward or impossible for a range
language whose writing systems are not supported by current technology.

At present, the unavailability of Lao language software platform does not appear to be an inhibitor to the use
of informatics in commercial enterprises and Government Public Service. Those likely to be able to afford to
purchase a computer or educated to a standard to be able to use one are reported to be able to read and write
in English. As economic conditions continue to improve and Government services become more widespread
throughout the country, including the rural areas, the lack of Lao language applications may become an
inhibiting factor in the future.

Today’s global society has been connected with Internet. Individuals are connected with each other and other
organizations in every parts of the world through emails. We also gather global information through Internet.
Under these conditions, native culture and language support is important to bridge a “Digital Divide” of non-
English people.

Development process

Since Microsoft has not released a standard version of Microsoft Windows for use with Lao language, a
number of other partial solutions were created to allow the use of Lao with Windows applications. There are
small individual initiative were taken by local authorities, developers, linguistics and users. However there is
lack of coordination and the most critical problem is low technical competence and fund for producing inside
the country. Therefore most of research works were done outside the country with a little linguistics skills,
the application are base on roman technology, which very different from the language back group. In
addition all the development are base on commercial purpose with the low interest for general public to the
local users, who require the better on use Lao language in the information technology.

Most of local language solutions available today have been designed to satisfy the needs of daily business
and casual life. They have been or are now being accepted by the market very well and they became a part of
important infrastructure of our daily life. Most local solutions available today have been designed by
principle of “apply minimum modification on English system” to meet only one non-English Culture.
Therefore, once someone tries to expand existing local solution, he will immediately face the limitations of
this existing solution. As many of us know well, there is time a lag from the first delivery of the original
version to the application to the local version. Furthermore, the times are different from culture to culture.
During the time lag, we cannot have the same application and thus it is difficult to take advantage of the
Global Information Infrastructure.

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The problem of using Lao language in current information technology

   Justify: Justification of Latin alphabet texts is most often accomplished by proportionally increasing each
    space in each line until the right edge of the text is aligned with the column edge. However, with Lao text
    this process does not work very well, since Lao sentences are typically written with few or no visible
    spaces, so that either a line of text cannot be justified at all by this method, or else, if only one or two
    spaces exist in the line, the spaces become very large and break the flow of the text unacceptably.

   Word wrapping: At the current system did not support the word wrapping, due to still could not identify
    the beginning and the end of single syllable in the words or sentence, therefore user have to think about
    breaking line by hand. This is not convenient or a large amount of text. This becomes important
    whenever text must be edited or revised, to prevent minor changes resulting in every subsequent line
    needing adjusting.

   Sorting: The sorting system based on code table method, as Roman alphabet did not work with the Lao
    language. In the language, the words are sorting by the pronunciation of basic consonant.

   Numeric character and symbols: Many Lao fonts use the standard codes for numbers and arithmetic
    symbols for other characters, which leads to program errors, especially in spreadsheet and database
    applications. The hyphen code, in particular, is often recognized as a minus sign, and must be used with

   Also, due to the nature of the Lao script, there have been some difficulties in implementing Lao fonts for
    high quality printing and topography. The rendering of context dependent characters in the Lao language
    was commonly handled by including possible above-vowels combinations in encoding schemes and
    fonts. While this solution allows for high quality rendering, it has a serious impact on searching
    efficiency and algorithms.

   Also other functions such as find/replace, spell check, Lao lexicon, dictionary and grammar haven’t
    supported by any existing applications.

The activities related to Lao Localization development

   Pan Localization Project: A Regional Initiative to Develop Local Language Computing Capacity in Asia
    supported by International Development Research Program (IDRC), Canada, through its Pan Asia
    Networking (PAN) program, which the objective:
     to develop sustainable human resource capacity in the Asian region for R&D in local language
       technology: The human resource pool in most developing Asian countries needs capacity-building to
       become skilled in enhancing the existing technology to support their Asian languages.
     to raise current levels of technological support for Asian languages: Asian languages are in some
       aspects much more complex than English, some with very complex writing systems. The current
       technology, initially developed to support English, does not completely support the requirements of
       many Asian languages and needs to be developed.
     to advance policy for local language content creation and access across Asia for development: Few
       studies examine local language problems to devise and recommend effective policy framework to
       address problems related to accessibility and publication of relevant content through ICTs and devise
       short-term and long-term solutions.

    The scope of the PAN Localization technology research includes development of character set, collation
    and other language standards, fonts, lexica, spell checkers, grammar checkers, search and replace
    utilities, speech recognition systems, text-to-speech synthesis, machine translation. The Project will
    assess both Linux and Microsoft platforms for these specific application developments. Different aspects
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P.O Box 2279, Vientiane, Lao PDR, Tel: (856-21) 217706 ext 108; Fax: (856-21) 213472
Email:; Web:
                                                                                               Information Technology Center
    of localization technology will be addressed, including linguistic standardization, computing
    applications, development platforms, content publishing and access, and effective marketing and
    dissemination and intellectual property right strategies of the output products.

    The countries (and languages) included in the Project are Bangladesh (Bangla), Bhutan (Dzongkha),
    Cambodia (Khmer), Laos (Lao), Nepal (Nepali) and Sri Lanka (Sinhala, Tamil). The implementers of the
    Project are ICT researchers, practitioners, linguists and policy-makers from government agencies,
    universities and the private sector. In addition to PAN and CRULP, the following are the participating
    institutions in this Project: Bangladesh: BRAC University, Jahangirnagar University; Bhutan:
    Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Information and Communications, Dzongkha
    Development Authority, Ministry of Educationm, Sherubste College; Cambodia: The National
    Committee for Standardization Khmer Script in Computers, The National Information Communication
    Development, Authority (NiDA); Laos: Science, Technology and Environment Agency (STEA); Nepal:
    Madan Puraskar Pustakalya, University of Kathmandu, Tribhuvan University; Sri Lanka: University of
    Colombo School of Computing

   The UNDP/UNV carried out an ICT assessment mission and found that ICT development in Lao PDR
    lacked one solid foundation, which has and will continue to hamper the country’s ability to fully take
    advantage of ICT. The absence of standards for entering, storing, displaying, printing and exchanging
    Lao text in digital formats was identified by the mission as the main obstacle for ICT development in the
    Lao PDR. Therefore UNDP was willing to assist Lao PDR to resolve the above-mentioned problems, by
    working jointly with STEA on the project to develop a Lao Standardization Project.

    The project is divided into two components:

    Capacity Building: This component will seek to strengthen the capacities of relevant government
    agencies to formulate, maintain, implement and promote ICT standards by:
     Increasing technical capacity of its staff members
     Establishing formal links with the local IT industry and local educational institutions
     Establishing formal links with ISO, Unicode consortium and Microsoft.

    Formulation and promotion of Lao standard for Information Interchange (LSII): since, in the long run,
    Unicode and Open Type fonts provide the only realistic solution to character set standardization in the
    Lao PDR, this component will seek to establish a LSII that complies with these standards. It will be some
    time before operating systems and applications give full support for Lao Unicode.

   LaoNet is a group of Lao expatriates based in Australia who defined themselves as a Lao global network
    of human resources, using information technology to harness the potential goodwill and the synergy of
    their resources to contribute to the betterment of all aspects of Lao communities. They are also working
    on a Lao system text-voice synthesis and trying to resolve the Lao code-page issues that will work both
    LSWIN and LaoWord.

   Dr. John DURDIN of TAVULTESOFT Co. based in Australia and the author of Lao script for Windows
    has just released Version 6.0 of LSWIN. This version has been developed to allow the use of Lao
    Unicode before it is fully supported by the operating system and applications. It provides Lao Unicode
    fonts and keyboard mapping for all Unicode-aware applications used with Windows NT4/2000/XP, and
    for word 97 and later when used with Windows 95/98/Me. There are two primary objectives of this
    version: to avoid the problems that arise in new applications due to conflicting coding standards, and to
    allow the creation of documents so that they can be exchanged freely between platforms, and will remain
    compatible with future standards and applications.

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P.O Box 2279, Vientiane, Lao PDR, Tel: (856-21) 217706 ext 108; Fax: (856-21) 213472
Email:; Web:
                                                                                               Information Technology Center
   Other local individual activities: The local font developers such as Dr. Hongkard (author of Hongkard
    fonts), Mr. Chaleunxay (author of Lao font for Macintosh), Dr. Bougnong (author of Alice font) also has
    created many Fonts and keyboards of Lao language.


Lao PDR is aware of the importance of localization development and wish for any new release operation
systems can support Lao language information processing. Various independent activities were taken by
responsible agencies, Developer and group of users, but there is a lack of coordination in these activities. The
process of development has been slowed down because of:
        The low competence and awareness in most government organization and local developers.
        The poor communications with international standard bodies and global IT companies of
         responsibility agencies.
        The low interest of local developers to adopt the International standards.

In order to strengthen the Localization development an appropriate strategy must be set up to bring all
stakeholders (Responsibility agencies, Developer and Users) to participate in activities such as:
        Setting up policies and strategies, which all sectors must coordinate and work jointly to solve the
        Create the Institutional capacity (establish the laboratory) to sustainable the research activity
         regarding to the Lao language Information processing. Also encourage the University to include the
         subject of Localization Technology into the curriculum.
        Improving the competence of national body to formulate, implement and maintain the standards.
        Linking national bodies to International standard organizations, Unicode and other major global IT
        Creating a new national standard that will enhance the Internal standard
        Carrying out a research to enhance Lao Information processing and to incorporate the international
         standard code set into keyboard mapping, Input method, output method, internal processing, sorting
         system, Lao dictionary, machine translation and Lao language information interchange.
        Encouraging the public to adapt to the new standard by promoting utilization: such as conducting
         national seminars, training courses, free distribution of standard package, and enforcing all
         government systems to be used, including the Internet.
        Encouraging Global IT companies, especially Microsoft, to support and include the new standard
         into their new release applications.


    1. Overview of fonts and local language support by PAN All Partners Meeting in Vientiane
    2. e-Readiness report by UNDP
    3. Lao Script for Windows by John Durdin.

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P.O Box 2279, Vientiane, Lao PDR, Tel: (856-21) 217706 ext 108; Fax: (856-21) 213472
Email:; Web:

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