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Project proposal for standardization of Ethiopic script encoding, Keyboard layout and transliteration to Latin. Dawit Bekele Mathematics and Computer Science Department, Addis Ababa University Ethiopian Computer Standards Association. Introduction.

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Dawit Bekele Mathematics and Computer Science Department, Addis Ababa University

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Dawit bekele mathematics and computer science department addis ababa university

Project proposalfor standardization of Ethiopic script encoding, Keyboard layoutand transliteration to Latin

Dawit Bekele

Mathematics and Computer Science Department, Addis Ababa University

Ethiopian Computer Standards Association



  • ICT brings new hopes for Ethiopia and the developing world

    • Improves the efficiency of the administration and the working force in general

    • Brings information to the users at a small cost and at a high speed

    • Breaks the distance barrier that is currently one of the major hindrance for development

  • However, currently the pace of computerization and the popularization of ICT is slow (even though computers are being imported in mass)


Introduction . . .

  • One of the major reasons for the relatively slow computerization and popularization of ICT is the lack of standards for the Ethiopic script that makes information interchange in local languages very difficult

  • Unless this serious problem is solved no breakthrough in the ICT area is possible

  • The objective of today’s meeting is to initiate a project for the development of Ethiopic standards

Ethiopic and ict

Ethiopic and ICT

  • Ethiopic is the script used by many Ethiopian and Eritrean languages (Amharic, Tigrinia, …)

  • Currently, Ethiopic can be used with ICTs but:

    • There is no compatibility between products (ex: a text written using one software is not readable with another)

    • Communication of Ethiopic text is difficult since the sender and the recipient must have the same fonts

  • For the above reasons, computerization of government organizations, the use of computers in schools , popularization of ICT is difficult

Solution for the problems

Solution for the problems

  • It has been agreed that standards are the only solutions for these problems

  • Why standards?

    • Standards provide industry and users with:

      • The framework of economies of design

      • Greater products and service quality

      • More inter-operability

      • Better production and delivery efficiency

Solution for the problems1

Solution for the problems …

  • Many standards can be suggested but the Ethiopian Computer Standards Association has proposed the following four standards:

    • Character set definition

      • Since there was no official list of Ethiopic characters different software products use different sets

    • Encoding system

      • There are more than 30 different encoding systems.

        • Incompatibility ex:

          Power GeezAlxEthiopian

          Power GeezAlxEthiopian

Solution for the problems2

Solution for the problems …

  • Keyboard layout

    • There are as many keyboard layouts as the encoding systems

  • Transliteration to Latin

    • Everybody creates his/her transliteration method

      • Ex: Berhanu, Birhanu, Berhanou, Birhanu, Brhanu, Brhanou

Past and current standardization efforts

Past and current standardization efforts

  • At National level

    • ECOSA made a proposal for the development of the 4 Ethiopic Standards to the Quality and Standards Authority of Ethiopia(QSAE) two years ago; the proposal is accepted

    • The first standard on the definition of the character set has been approved by the QSAE

  • At international level

    • ISO and UNICODE included Ethiopic in UNICODE 3.0

Problem in the standardization works

Problem in the standardization works

  • The pace is very slow: It took 4 years for QSAE/ECOSA to get one standard

  • The need is urgent (there are very large projects that will not be successful if these and other standards are not developed)

Project proposal

Project proposal

  • Development objectives

    • To create an environment that Enables:

      • interpretability of Ethiopic based software products

      • easy communication using Ethiopic over a LAN or WAN

    • To Foster the development of the Ethiopian software industry by limiting the redundant work of the developers and facilitating reuse and integration of the software products

    • To foster the effective computerization of government and private organizations for better overall efficiency

Project proposal1

Project proposal …

  • Specific objectives proposal

    • To produce first draft national standards for:

    • -Ethiopic characters Encoding

    • -Ethiopic Key board Layout

    • -Ethiopic / Latin transliteration

    • To develop subsequent draft documents up to the final document following the national standardization procedures

Project proposal2

Project proposal ….

  • Methodology

    • Review of existing local and international products, systems and standards

    • Research on linguistic properties of Ethiopic and the languages that use it

    • Interview of users and software developers

    • Workshop involving all stakeholders

    • Collection of public comments by distributing the draft document

Project proposal3




Service coordinator

Encoding sub-

project team leader

Key board sub-

project team leader leader

Transliteration sub-

project leader













Project proposal ….

  • Staffing

    • The consultant and the team leaders will be selected from highest experts within and outside the country

    • QSAE will take the coordination of the secretarial service and should provide the offices and meeting rooms for the project members.

Project proposal4


Title of Expense

Total cost (Birr)





Research assistants



Communication (Internet, telephone)



Travel expenses



Miscellaneous (5%)




Project proposal ….

  • Financial requirements (preliminary version)



  • This project deals with issues that are vital for the development of ICT in the country

  • It also has a wider impact since other African countries may learn from the Ethiopian experience

  • This project will be prepared in consultation with the various stake holders in order to eliminate redundant work and maximize efficiency

    Thank you

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