Digital Rights Projects

Project Summary

The Kiswahili Digital Rights Project is a ground-breaking initiative to translate and popularize key terms in digital rights and technology into Kiswahili. We noticed that digital rights activists in the region were struggling because the pace of developments in the space was dramatically outpacing the translation of key terms. How do you say ‘surveillance’ in Kiswahili? How do you say “data privacy”? Until recently, there were no words for this, and this project aims to provide them.

 We gathered a team of experts in the Kiswahili language from Kenya and Tanzania and invited them to workshop some of the key words and provide translation. We also sponsored a literature prize in partnership with the Mabati-Cornell Prize: The Nyabola Prize for Writing Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction in Kiswahili. We also worked with media outlets like the Taifa Leo and the BBC Kiswahili service to disseminate the vocabulary. Research from the experience is published as a white paper and a chapter in an edited collection on digital citizenship.

This project aims at creating and popularizing the vocabulary of technology and digital rights in Kiswahili. We are not only seeking to educate but also to show the possibilities that are created by the most widely spoken African language in the world. Ultimately, we are working towards a future where Kiswahili language communities will become a key contributor to discussions in global technology.  

Translation Exercise

The Kiswahili Language Translation Project brought together a team of experts from various universities and organizations in a series of virtual conversations and workshops to provide translations for key words in digital vocabulary in Kiswahili. The team provided either one to one translation, or conceptual translation for a variety of key terms in technology and digital rights with the hope of enabling Kiswahili speaking communities across the globe to fully participate in conversations about technology. The final translations are freely available for download and circulation here.

The Nyabola Prize for Science and Speculative Fiction in Kiswahili

The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature is a historic honorary recognition for the rich and vast African culture that is long overdue in the world of African literature. Founded by Mukoma wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree in 2014, it aims to promote the use of African languages in writing and foster translation from, between and into African languages. The prize marks a groundbreaking moment for African philanthropy driven by fellow Africans and is a testament to the ideal that Africans can and should be spearheading African cultural production and promotion.

The 2021 Nyabola Prize for Science and Speculative Fiction in Kiswahili is administered in partnership with the Mabati-Cornell Prize. Contestants will write short stories between 2000-2500 words, and are encouraged to use the vocabulary of technology in Kiswahilii. The top 3 winners will receive cash prizes in the following order below while the top 10 stories will be published in an anthology;

First Prize – US $1,000
Second Prize- US $500
Third Prize – US $ 250

For further information kindly refer to this link.

The Flashcard Set

How well do you know Kiswahili vocabulary? Flashcards are designed to help Kiswahili speakers to learn the new vocabulary and are also designed as a game to encourage people to use the new terms.


The Kiswahili Digital Rights Project is made possible with support from:

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