By APCNews PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 26 October 2005
Open Forum of Cambodia and the Cambodian government train teachers how to teach OpenOffice in Khmer
KhmerOS is a localisation and distribution of a free and open source software (FOSS) project started by Open Forum of Cambodia over two years ago. The project’s social goals include reducing training time for computer users (very long if the programmes and materials are in English), giving access to computers to people in rural areas (who do not speak English), permitting computerisation of the government, NGOs, SMEs and large Cambodian corporations in their own language, and protecting the Khmer language itself, by creating adequate terminology for computer usage. No applications owned by Microsoft have been translated to the Khmer (Cambodian) language.
KhmerOS has already localized into Khmer language OpenOffice 2.0, as well as applications for internet access, e-mail and other small computer applications. All these FOSS applications work on both Windows and Linux. Over 70 hours of quality training materials for these applications have also been developed, tested, improved and standardized.
Since the beginning of 2005 KhmerOS has become a joint project of Open Forum and the National ICT Development Authority of the Cambodian government (NiDA). Open Forum has collaborated in the development of a National Master Plan for the Deployment of FOSS, as well as the action plan for its implementation.
Part of the action plan consists in distributing of the localized FOSS software through computer vendors, the development of a certification system supported by NiDA and the training of computer teachers from both the private training sector and the government’s teacher training infrastructure.
NiDA and Open Forum submitted a proposal for teacher training to InWent (International Capacity Building, Germany) and received support for training 300 computer end-user teachers, as well as for training 30 Linux administrators (for which we are developing training materials in Khmer).
In June KhmerOS hired four full-time experienced computer teachers. After teaching with the materials that had been developed and doing some work to improve them, they set to work on creating training for trainers’ materials, which were first used in August, improved and then became our standard training for training materials.
Open Forum’s four trainers and NiDA’s six trainers are now training 40 to 50 computer teachers every week in NiDA’s training room (30 computers) and Open Forum’s training room (11 computers, hoping to grow to 20 in the next month). Over 180 teachers have already been trained. Each teacher receives 20 hours of training, enough for teachers who have taught computer usage in English before. Teachers are equipped with all the training materials developed by Open Forum and NiDA, and taught how to use them. The 20 hours also include training on how to install OpenOffice and other Khmer language programmes on Windows.
If the present rhythm of training is maintained, more than 350 teachers will be trained in Phnom Penh and at least six other provinces (in teacher training centres and NGOs) before the end of the year.
The trainees include computer teachers from private computer training schools; NGOs doing vocational training or computer training in elementary schools, school teachers, school teacher trainers and government ICT officials in different departments.
During this year, all the training will be done on FOSS programs in Khmer language running on Windows platform. By the end of 2005 a complete Linux based environment will be available in Khmer language, and we will start a slower process of training vendors and training centres on the use of this 100%-Khmer operating system, based on KDE, which has already been translated and is being tested. Our strategy requires that applications in Khmer are widely used before we actually start deploying Linux.
Part of the plan is to support the teachers that are now starting to use FOSS applications in Khmer instead of MS Office in English, helping them to teach their first classes in private, public and NGO-based schools. Training through these teachers has already started in some of the most remote provinces.
Training is considered by Open Forum as the key to deployment of FOSS applications in the country. We consider our job to assure that the teachers that we train actually apply what they have learnt, assuring the real impact of our activities and producing change and moving towards a country that is capable of reducing the digital divide by using Khmer language free and open source software.