In an era of wider governmental adoption of free software, the Serbian authorities decided
to take a different approach toward the affirmation of GNU/Linux and free
software in the business sector and the general public. Instead of direct
adoption of free software and open standards, Serbian authorities decided
to fund several localization projects with the goal of helping to improve
the competitiveness of free software on the Serbian IT market.
The first information about the government's plans to help the localization
of Free Software appeared in December 2007, when several of the Serbian
media reported about the issue. Shortly after the news was revealed, the
release (Google cached page, since the site was changed with no
resources in English at the moment) from the Serbian Ministry of
Telecommunications and Information Society was published, giving all the
details that were available to the public at the moment.
In short, February was set as a deadline for the first results, which meant
localized versions of Ubuntu, Fedora, Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and
OpenOffice.org. The projects were funded by the ministry and delegated to the
several Serbian computer science faculties for organization and
implementation. All of them, except the Ubuntu localization team, showed
their first results in March at a presentation organized by the
ministry. Ubuntu was late since the localized version was planned for the
LTS (Long term support) release which came out in April. Shortly after
Ubuntu 8.04 was released localized Ubuntu ISOs appeared on project
Ubuntu was known as a distribution which didn't have a localized installer
or characteristic Ubuntu software translated in Serbian. In order to
provide better localization, people from Faculty of Electrical engineering
in Belgrade forked Ubuntu and named the new distribution
cp6Linux. Cp6Linux was recognized as
symbolic way to write "SerbLinux" since cp6 can be understood as "Serb" in
something that might be considered as Cyrillic "leatspeak". The
development team never confirmed this though. "Linux for human
beings who speak (only) Serbian" is packaged in three flavors: Home,
School and Business. Beside this way of packaging, the cp6 development
team customized visual identity and adopted a user interface to make it
more friendly for users coming from Windows.
The most important task and the purpose of cp6's existence is not entirely
completed, but the situation compared to a vanilla Ubuntu installation is a
lot better. The live disk bootstrap interface and the live system
installer are translated into Serbian. System tools and package managers
are also localized, but translations of package descriptions and
configuration messages are missing. The graphical configuration tools
shipped with Ubuntu, like restricted-manager, are translated too, so it
seems that cp6 2008 (which is the first and so far the only version) is
basically targeting localization of the GUI applications and tools. The cp6 team produced a
52-page Creative Commons licensed User manual (CC-NC-SA), covering the most
important features in using and installing cp6Linux 2008.
The Fedora localization
translation) took different strategy and decided to produce localized
flavors of Fedora, with no forks and branding. The Serbian Fedora
localization community was quite well organized and productive before, so
the first thing that people for Faculty of Organization Sciences in
Belgrade did was getting in touch with translators who already worked on
Fedora. According to them, 19416 of 32480 strings in total were localized
already, and they've localized 98% of 19500 unlocalized strings, which
leads us to the total score of 99% localized strings.
Almost 100% of localization strings in real life mean localized
configuration tools, package management GUIs and installation interface.
YUM and package descriptions, similar to cp6Linux, remain untranslated.
Most of the work was done on Fedora 8, which is available for download from
project servers, with Serbian localization and settings out of the box.
There is no information about ISOs or localization details for Fedora 9 or
10 on the project website.
Mozilla products were localized by the people from Electronic Faculty in
Niš. As in the case of Fedora, project organizations continued existing
efforts. The final result, for GNU/Linux and Windows, are Cyrillic and
Latin versions available for download from the project website (Firefox
184.108.40.206 and Thunderbird 220.127.116.11).
Back in Belgrade, localization of OpenOffice.org was delegated to The
Faculty of Mathematics. Again, the project continued existing efforts and
took over the coordination of the official Serbian translation team. The
first steps toward a localized OpenOffice.org dated back to 2001 when a
group of Serbian free software users got together for a big translation
marathon organized by ICT Tower, a local OSS oriented software company.
Sadly, without any external support, they failed to keep interest in the
project and translations were never updated. The second big push was in
the summer of 2005 when Novell gave some money to the "prevod.org" group
for improving Serbian localization in SUSE. Following the OpenOffice
release 2 "prevod.org" members returned to keeping up with GNOME
translations, and once again the OpenOffice.org translation was left
"In December 2008 the Ministry of telecommunications and information
society Republic of Serbia started four projects for free software
localization." explains Goran Rakic, Serbian OpenOffice.org native
language project lead. According to Rakic, the biggest achievements of the
project are localized releases of 2.4, 2.4.1 and 3.0 with
continuity. "We did large QA and localization quality is better then
ever", he states. Project statistics show distribution of more than
30,000 localized installations via the project site and more than 3000 in
just one week after the 3.0 release. Rakic reveals that localized OOo is
used inside government too, with some large deployments and many more to
go. Rakic looks into the future saying that the "Ministry and Faculty
of Mathematics in Belgrade signed contract for three years with option to
extend and we are just one year in it. I can say that future looks bright
for all current and new OpenOffice.org users in Serbia."
It is very hard to give a general conclusion about the implementation and
impact of these projects. First of all, the public was never informed of
any study related to the use of localized versions of any software in
Serbia. So it's impossible to predict how many users might directly
benefit from those activities. The only numbers that we can use for any
sort of analysis are download statistics, which doesn't necessarily reflect
the real amount of acceptance or everyday use of localized programs and
Contributions and translations from the Faculty of Organization
Sciences have gone upstream, and cooperation with the Fedora translation
team seems to be established and functioning according to the information
on the Serbian
team page. On the contrary, it seems that the Cp6Linux translations
didn't go upstream, since there are no noted contributions on Launchpad.
As in the case of Fedora, communication and cooperation is managed on the Serbian Mozilla localization
team wiki. OpenOffice is the only project that actually took over
coordination of the localization team, at least officially. Speaking of
distributions, in both cases GNOME is being used as the default desktop
environment, which has a strong and devoted localization community whose
work was packaged in cp6Linux and Fedora in Serbian. GNOME translation is
not a part of government funded activities, though.
In the meantime, the Faculty of Technical Sciences from Novi Sad started to
work on Alfresco localization, and the results are available on the Alfresco Forge
This non-typical approach to free software from the government was
motivated by the expectation that localization will become another
recommendation for the Free Software adoption in Serbia. According to Mr.
Nebojša Vasiljevic, assistant of the Minister of Telecommunications
and Information Society for Information society, in his interview for
GNUzilla magazine (issue 36). He also said that those project are not part
of any strategy involving switching to free software in governmental
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