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It has been a great month for the Words of Relief team following our launch in Nairobi in March. April was focused on further development of the digital application of Words of Relief: the Words of Relief Digital Exchange (WoRDE). Our goal is to create an online (and mobile) application that has two main functions:

  • proactively provides content in the right language to teams deploying during a crisis, and
  • connects our vetted translation teams with aid workers and  data aggregators who need immediate help

WoRDE intends to create a platform offering service-oriented cloud architecture for connecting communities and NGOs to provide multilingual resources for crisis response. We have spoken to many stakeholders to come up with the right design of WoRDE…and our initial thinking is elaborated in the diagram below that we affectionately call “The Scribble”:



The work for WoRDE is part of our overall Words of Relief project to use language to improve communications with affected populations during a crisis. It has received supplemental funding from Microsoft’s Technology for Good grant program.  The funding from Microsoft will allow us to hire a team of engineers to develop a prototype once we have further developed The Scribble. We are working through that process with our Words of Relief technology team as well as a technology committee of experts who meet monthly to help in the development of WoRDE.  The current focus is how best to integrate with Translators without Borders Workspace where we have a broad base of vetted translators already available.  We also have begun the discussion on creating APIs for aid workers. Three that we hope to develop are: GET PHRASEBOOK, with a pre-packaged list of  ‘first 100 words ’required by any first responders heading to a crisis, LANGUAGE PACK, which will provide much more pre-translated content for responders, and TRANSLATE , which would allow both rapid and longer, strategic translation of documentation.

Meanwhile, we continue to work on the overall Words of Relief program and to meet with stakeholders to get their input.

We met with a Microsoft team here in Nairobi this month to discuss the importance of language and present WoRDE on a local level. We explored the accessibility of technology by different language speakers in Kenya.  We also discussed various platforms most commonly and widely used in the country.

In addition, we discussed the relevance   and the intended impact of WoRDE in disaster prone areas in Kenya.  WoRDE will enable us to provide lifesaving short term tactical responses. Microsoft’s team in Nairobi would like to work with us and provide technical guidance and architecture in developing WoRDE.

At the end of the month, we presented a CDAC-Network 101 Seminar with Standby Task Force entitled, “Digital Humanitarian Response – What Should the Future Look Like?” The seminar, at Google Campus in London, was well attended by aid organizations and field workers who are interested in technology tools to help them do their jobs better. We received great feedback on Words of Relief and learned more about the needs of the field worker and Head of Office helping the field worker. For example, field workers often have smartphones in the field, but they are less likely to use them because they do not have a data plan from their organizations. Such nuggets of information help us in making sure we create content and tools that are actually used by those who need them.

Meanwhile, back in Nairobi…the Swahili translation team has completed the translation of Infoasaid Message Library. They are now working on key chapters of the Sphere Handbook, Info4Disaster and Humanity Road key messages, SMS messages from IFRC Beneficiary Communications and more.

Our Somali team has been hired and is coming together next month to translate 40,000 words.

A busy month!  May will be marked with more development on the technology side and more development of content.

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