Computer software maker, Microsoft, is set to launch a Kiswahili software programme targeting over 110 million speakers of the language in the world.

The newly-developed programmes, to be launched today, are product of close to two years work by Kiswahili experts from East and Central Africa. This is a breakthrough for Kiswahili users since it means that the language is fast moving towards becoming a globally accepted language.

Microsoft's East Africa localisation manager, Mr Patrick Opiyo, said the software was meant to bridge the digital divide between developed nations and emerging markets, besides preserving the African culture.

He said the project involved converting the existing Microsoft programmes into Kiswahili, adding that no new products were developed.Before the software was developed, said Mr Opiyo, Kiswahili experts from East and Central Africa translated over 650,000 words in Windows and Office software while close to 70,000 words were translated in the help manuals.

The software, he added, would help standardise Kiswahili across the region since it has been accepted by experts from a majority of the countries that use the language, he said.

Mr Opiyo said a Kiswahili glossary containing the words used in the programmes and their meanings would also be distributed by the software maker free of charge to assist the users in different areas.

However, he said that the software would be updated from time to time to ensure that it met the needs and demands of the users at all times.

The project manager, Mr Harrison Kilai, who is also a programme assistant with African Virtual University (AVU), said AVU would help globalise the product and make it available to all.

"It is in line with AVU mission and vision to make African continent a global player and thus empower Africans," he said. He said institutions of learning worldwide could take advantage of the programme, especially in developing curriculums.

Mr Kilai noted that universities in Canada, Japan and even America, where the study of Kiswahili was growing, would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the product.

"AVU will help to do implementation in order to work with other regional centres," he said.

"The Kiswahili programmes to be launched today are Microsoft Excel, Office, Outlook and Word," said Mr Opiyo.

He said Microsoft Windows would be launched sometime in mid January.

The Daily Nation