Wycliffe Associates: of tablets, technology, and TNT

By January 10, 2017
(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

International (MNN/WAS) — As far as technology goes, we are in a ‘post PC’ era, depending on which generation you talk to.

Tablets have been around for decades, but with the proliferation of the Smartphone and other wireless-connected mobile devices, it seems like that idea has picked up steam.

Originally designed as a tool to allow people to fulfill the ‘work anywhere, anytime’ expectation, they seemed to have been spawned out of realms of science fiction and moved into the possibility of ‘what if?’

The early technology was clunky and expensive.  Expensive meant access was rare unless you had the disposable income to be on the cutting edge of gadgets.  Tech support and IT departments developed for problem solving.  Software for work, communication, and play developed…and riding that wave was (wait for it) a group of Bible translators.

As tablet technology got more mainstream, the price dropped.  Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says they have been developing some tools for a while now with the idea of launching Tablets for National Translators (TNTs).  “Over the years we’ve been field testing it, working with field partners, increasing the amount of tablet software and resources that are available through our particular program, and have had an incredible surge in interest from our partners overseas.”

(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

At the same time, persecution against Christians has escalated in many regions of the world.  Wycliffe Associates decided it was time.  The TNT program places basic computer tablets loaded with Bible translation tools and other applications into the hands of mother-tongue Bible translators around the world, including those who live in areas where Christians are severely oppressed and persecuted.

“It enables them to ‘hide in plain sight’ because electronic tools like this are becoming more and more routine in many situations around the world, whereas sitting with a leather-bound holy book in front of them could be, really, a very unsafe thing for them to do,” says Smith.

Not only do the computer tablets enable mother-tongue Bible translators to work discreetly, but also, “It enables them to contribute to the translation process collaboratively.  They can work offline.  They can work online.  They can upload their completed work, their draft work, their checking to a website, or they can just trade the information using memory cards and those kinds of things.”

Tools like TNT help accelerate the progress of Bible translation when used in conjunction with MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), a method of translating books of the Bible in parallel, while at the same time maintaining accuracy and quality.

For example, notes Smith, as recently as 2012, “Translators launching a new translation were looking at a decade or more to translate the New Testament.  Today, it can be done in only months.”

An added benefit for the translators in creative access areas: “Keeping that information in the Cloud instead of on their laptop, or on their computer that they’re holding in their  hand, really increases their safety pretty dramatically because that’s not information that’s readily accessible.”  Of course, “The flip-side to that is, by uploading it and storing it to the cloud, it creates a concentration of valuable information that someone could attack.  So, we’ve got people who are obviously monitoring and managing the security situation for those things.”

(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

Wycliffe Associates is looking for software developers or IT support to continue the work on an increasingly technological approach to providing access to God’s Word.  This year, more Bible translations will be launched in new languages than ever before.  The ministry has set a goal of placing 5,000 computer tablets, at a cost of $300 each, in the hands of translators to launch 400 new Bible translations in the coming year.

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