Facebook's new Swahili language edition popular in East Africa

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This article from BBC is about Facebook's launching of an edition in Swahili, a language that has a status as a lingua franca in the region where it is spoken, but very little online presence. Their Wikipedia has barely over 10,000 articles for example, but nevertheless the language is spoken by over 100 million people. Wikipedia estimates the population at 60+ million, but then again it also estimates Turkish at 70 million (less than the population of Turkey alone!) and is often laughingly conservative in the estimates it makes.

The most interesting part of the article: more than 60% of users in East Africa are already using the Swahili version. Time and time again news pops up that shows that people just feel that much more comfortable in their native tongue, and these are thus often neglected areas in business. Imagine for example you are a developer of Software X, but your competitors are also Software Y, Z, and a few others, and you want to have your product blow the competition away. Be the first to provide a Swahili (or other often used but neglected language) version, and the market in that language is all of a sudden trying out Software X whereas advertising in English alone wouldn't have done it.


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