Civic tech initiatives, which attempt to take advantage of technology to improve communities, have been springing up in recent years around the world. In Japan, innovators in various cities have held hackathons that have made use of public data and resulted in software/application being developed in short periods of time.
But for many Japanese, the word “civic” and “tech” are still foreign. It’s not easy for them to imagine information and communication technology and civil society coming together to solve community issues.
In December 2013, volunteer translators gathered in the Shibuya district of Tokyo to discuss how to introduce a practical example of civic tech to Japanese. They found “Beyond Transparency“, a book by American non-profit Code for America, which compiles essays about community’s learning around open data under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA-3.0), and decided to launch a collaborative project to translate it into Japanese. Participants ranged from freelancers and university teaching staff to employees at IT companies, and all of them were brimming with enthusiasm to attempt a joint translation.
Hiroyasu Ichikawa, who leads the translation project, speaks about the benefit of collaborative translation on his blog [ja]:
There’s something I found out after starting the translation project: Even if one person cannot achieve it, when you collaborate with like-minded individuals – people with the same idea or goal – the result gets multiplied and enables “1+1 > 2!”
This project uses Transfex, a platform that allows anyone to participate in translation projects, even if just for a few minutes of their free time. It is also planned that Code for Japan, which promotes civic tech in Japan, will provide editorial supervision. At present, 25 percent of the articles are already online [ja] and available to read in Japanese.
Their goal is to have the project completed by around springtime. Once it’s translated, it will help bring more civic tech initiatives to Japan, which will hopefully mean examples for the English-speaking world to look to in the future.