The £444,000,000 rip off

If you click on this link, you will find a copy of a typical England and Wales Court Summons. In this case it is a Witness Summons for the Court of Protection relating to people detained under the Mental Health Act. The form is a simple template where one needs to fill in the boxes.

Its fair to say that there are many hundreds of different versions of summons forms, for different levels of court and different statuses of those who are summonsed to attend. But they are all basically similar, they are all simple templates. Three quarters of the details on all of the different templates ask for similar basic information NAME ............. Address............ Date, Place and Time of hearing etc.

Using the Court of Protection form and just fiddling with the very basic programmes that I have on my computer I was able to create a template, a Welsh translation of the template and the ability to automatically fill both forms at once in less than half an hour.

I am not a computer expert, I have no training, I have taught myself to do what I want to do on a computer by trial and error. But if I am able to create a form filling application in two languages in less than half an hour (albeit for just one form) why on earth is the Libra system being delivered in an incomplete state 7 years late and at a cost of £444 Million?

The system is incomplete because it can't offer Welsh & English bilingual summonses. Rectifying this problem is going to cost another £4 million.

Facebook was translated into Welsh by a group of about a dozen volunteers over a period of six months or so. Facebook, one would imagine, is a more complex system than a simple form filling exercise. If those volunteers offered to translate Libra their work would be valued at about £300,000 each! If those volunteers were to produce a virtual invoice for the cost of translating Facebook I doubt if they would come close to even 2% of what Libra claims the translation costs will be.

The whole Libra project raises rip-off questions. But the £4 million translation cost raises even more worries. £4 million for a single Welsh Translation service is manna from heaven to the anti-Welsh language lobby, it is a gift to those who want excuses for not supporting the language. As an avid supporter of the language I can think of much better language support uses for such a huge amount of money than issuing summonses - how many language tutors and learners could be supported by such a sum?

I'm not sure how or by whom Welsh Language projects should be investigated - but this is a project in need of a very serious investigation!


  1. According to the 2001 census 1.1% of the UK population are fluent Welsh users living in Wales. £4 million is also 1.1% of the total Libra cost of £444 million!

    Looks like a sum based on statistics rather than actual translation costs!

  2. I agree that the amount to make the software work in more than one language is a complete piss take. The company responsible should show how the figure of £4m is calculated - I suspect thy made it up to see what they could get away with.

    Regarding Facebook being localised into Welsh, it took more than just a dozen people to translate neatly 40,000 'strings' (words or sentences). By now over a thousand volunteers have taken part in the translation.

  3. Da iawn chdi / Well done you.

    There are important issues here.

    The Open Source software community has translated several computer interfaces (such as Linux distributions like Ubuntu) into Welsh without any of the expenditure or hullabaloo which seem to afflict public sector IT projects in Wales.

    There is no doubt that the most cost-effective way of making software bi- or multi-lingual is to support and encourage community efforts. Translations can be checked by many people, and the definitive bilingual versions are determined by consensus.

    Of course, the software should be open source - with minimal proprietary intellectual property rights. Translating Facebook does not benefit the wider community, because the software is proprietary. Why do unpaid work for a private company?
    Moving towards open source solutions would mean stopping the gravy-train which benefits numerous dodgy IT consultancies as well as Microsoft, who rake in a fortune in software licensing payments from the public sector in Wales. That money goes straight out of the Welsh economy. If even a proportion of it were to be invested in training the workforce, then Wales would be a world leader in IT.

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  5. The Welsh language campaigners should campaign for a Welsh version of computer languages.