Santosh Thottingal has done wonders for Malayalam computing. He is the only Indian on Wikipedia's recently-expanded language committee

Santhosh Thottingal has just logged on to the big leagues in cyber world. This young techie's contribution to the Indian language computing scene, along with his numerous contributions to Wikipedia (Wiki) projects, is taking him places. He is the only Indian in Wikimedia Foundation's newly-expanded 16-member language committee, which was announced on February 28.

Language committee

“Wiki hosts 279 languages across the world, including 20 Indian languages. In addition, there are 20-plus Indian languages in the incubator. The role of the language committee is to help people start a Wiki in their language, and it is this committee that approves a request for Wiki in a new language,” explains Santosh, a Free Open Source Software (FOSS) activist and fan of GNU, a free Operating System.

Santhosh has been associated with Wiki projects for two to three years now. “I have done projects for Malayalam Wiki. I created the software for an offline distribution of Malayalam Wiki with 500 select articles. It was the first of its kind from India, and the Government of Kerala distributed the CD containing this to 60,000 schools in April 2010,” says Santosh.

Chennai-based Santosh, who works for an IT company, is first and foremost a free software developer and is also a project administrator for Swathanthra Malayalam computing, which supports Malayalam for free software.

For the last five years, he has been working on “Indic language technology development and associated research.” He developed ‘Dhvani,' a text-to-speech system for the visually challenged in India, along with a professor from the Institute of Science, Bangalore. This is a system for 10 Indian languages, and Pashto language too. It won the FOSS India award in 2008.

Along with his team of volunteers at Swathanthra, Santosh has developed a number of free software for Malayalam computing, enabling the use of Malayalam with GNU and Linux Operating Systems. This project holds the honour of being the biggest free software project in India in this area.

Literature buff

Malayalam Wiki has a sister project called Malayalam Wikisource, where books with expired copyrights are available and it helps that Santosh is a fan of Malayalam literature. He helped convert Indulekha, the first novel in of Malayalam, and Keralapanineeyam to Wikisource. The complete works of Sree Narayana Guru is also on Wikisource due to Santhosh's efforts.

Connecting people

“Cyberspace in Malayalam is a space for Malayalis all over the world to connect. You see it in Facebook, blogs, Google Buzz, Twitter…. These spaces are utilised, for politics, for fun, for friendship… In all these ways, it connects people. For the first time in history, social networking is making waves.

“Wiki is one example where Malayalis all over the world have showed their creativity. In fact, did you know that Malayalam Wiki is rated second in page depth – a parameter used to measure the activities and content?” asks Santosh.

Santhosh was in Poland last year as a representative from Indian Wiki for ‘Wikimania 2010' – Wiki's annual conference. And he is proud about how Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, talked about the Malayalam Wiki's activities in his keynote speech.

In Poland, Santhosh conducted a workshop on creating offline Wiki repositories along with Shiju Alex, who coordinates many advocacy and outreach activities for Malayalam Wiki and Tinu Cherian, who works in the administration of English Wiki.

Santhosh will soon attend a meeting of the language committee in Berlin and possibly hop over to Israel for this year's ‘Wikimania.'

This bachelor from Palakkad, son of a farmer and home-maker couple, claims that he is a “home-made product” – a graduate of the 2005 batch of the NSS Engineering College, Palakkad.