Translation of computer software is commonly separated into two key terms, internationalization (i18n) as an enabling factor and localization (l10n) as the process of translating the software to be suitable for a specific context. With an emphasis on distributed development and software design, I present the internationalization and localization efforts of a Health Information System (HIS) situated in the context of developing countries.
Through an action research approach, which includes a 4 month field study in Vietnam, I investigate the use of open source software (OSS) in developing countries. In collaboration with a Vietnamese team, I developed the first internationalization solution for the second generation of the District Health Information Software (DHIS 2), and localized the software for Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). DHIS 2 is an OSS project and a product of the Health Information Systems Programme (HISP), which is an organization dedicated to improving health care in developing countries. Based on my discoveries, I discuss the establishment of localization teams in developing countries and their integration into a global OSS project.
I point to a shift of focus on internationalization and localization as processes of isolating culture specific data, to a broader perspective on how organizational structures and technology can be adapted to support such change. Modularization and how general solutions can be reached are discussed based on cases from the development of DHIS 2, and a digital divide between developing nations and OSS communities in the effective use of communication technology is identified.
Internationalization is traditionally situated at the presentation layer of applications. Based on an implementation in the DHIS 2 project, I present an aspect oriented concept for enabling internationalization on the lower layers of software projects, and how this concept can be aligned with existing installations.