Web development in missions includes both back-end and front-end site development, application servers, content management, online directories, issue tracking, cloud and web-based productivity software.
Web developers built the global alliance of organizations’ intranet and some of their public websites on Plone and Drupal content management systems. They develop web applications using Python and Django framework, as well as XML and XSL. In striving to use the best software to do jobs efficiently, we constantly research software such as Node.js server-side written for scalable Internet applications.
A partner organization has been researching, working with language personnel, and developing Scripture-packed websites. Some sites also contain the JESUS film, the Luke video and other content, such as local language dictionaries, cultural items, and community notices.
Once the content is ready, it takes only two to five days to build the site and make it live. At the end of one workshop, when 14 Scripture sites went live, 33 million people had instant access to God’s Word. Interestingly, Facebook links are helping people find the sites. More than 100 minority language websites now reach into geographically remote locations with the goal of enabling mobile phone users to download Scripture.
One website’s hits per month averaged only between 500 and 1,000, with about 25 downloads. A partner organization spent $500 to place some Google ads for one month, offering a free download or viewing of the JESUS film in the local language. The results were amazing. Because of that promotion, in one month there were 15,000 hits and 750 Scripture products downloaded to computers and mobile phones. With the ads continuing, six months later there were 42,000 hits and 4,000 downloads—more hits per day than they previously had had in one month. God uses technology for his purposes!
In web development, the concept of mobile first means that developers build websites first for mobile devices, and include only those tasks and items that site visitors use most. Later, when screen real estate increases, they add tasks and features as needed, based on user priorities. The mobile first guideline is especially true for overseas use.
Crowdsourcing the Word
Crowdsourcing may further Bible translation even faster! A Bible translation project in South Asia became our test case, with astounding results. The local people, living a simple lifestyle, went as family groups to an Internet café, with the 20-year-olds handling most aspects of the technology.
All segments of the community participated in the Bible translation. Women and youth were able to add their perspectives; these are typically missing due to cultural constraints. Even people who could not read were able to participate. People from seven regions across 12 Christian church movements worked together with surprising unity and harmony, and new bonds formed as they worked side by side, reviewing Scripture. Even non-Christians came, curious about the work, and local church attendance grew by twenty percent.
Within months, over 3,000 people participated in translating seven chapters of Luke via their own custom-designed website. It contains all the translation work. The community confirmed about 78 people as quality translators. Normally, finding three skilled translators is considered a gold mine. Over 100,000 people cast votes, answering essentially the same questions: Is the translation clear? Does it accurately convey the meaning of the original texts? Does it sound natural?
Most important of all, the community viewed the translation work as their own from the very start, and it is already making an impact in ways we could not have imagined.
The United Nations has assigned SIL International the task of maintaining the classifications of languages. As a result, this information is gathered and regularly updated in print and online in the Ethnologue. It contains information on 7,105 known living languages.
Many government, education, and other organizations use it for minority, multilingual planning, preserving, and outreach to language groups. Because of these many needs, developers continue to input and update information and map language locations.
In addition, one goal is to make the website more interactive for gathering information worldwide, similar to the Wikipedia site. So a feature of the site is an Ethnoblog that was cited in National Geographic, May 2013.