Any gadget — be it a computer or a smartphone — sold in the State should support Tamil out of the box, a group of Tamil scholars and computing experts have asked the State government to mandate.
Only such State support in ensuring the Tamil script is displayed properly and available for input in all devices will lead to widespread use.
The ramifications of getting manufacturers to enable the devices in Tamil, or whatever the local language, cannot be undermined, especially if we are to bridge the digital divide, according to the participants of a seminar organised by Tamil Virtual Academy in the city this week.
One instance where government mandate helped immensely, according to Mani M. Manivannan, chair of Tamil Unicode Working Group of the International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil, is when the Singapore government mandated the requirement of Tamil support for all computers it procured for its libraries.
This ultimately led to Apple introducing Tamil fonts on its Mac range of computers. “It also meant Apple quickly ported Tamil support to its mobile devices… the iPhone and the iPad. The government mandate eventually helped a lot of Tamil users,” said Mr. Manivannan.
In their draft recommendations to Tamil Nadu government’s IT secretary, Tamil scholars and IT experts have suggested all modern devices — of computing, communication and entertainment, including phones, game consoles and computers — be mandated to support Tamil out of the box, with government-recommended fonts and input method editors with sufficient technology, to render Tamil correctly.
Muthu. Nedumaran, a pioneer in the field of Indic language input method editors, is of the view that Tamil and other Indian languages can be easily enabled on devices by manufacturers themselves, but they have never had any compulsive reasons to do so.
The scenario is a lot different even in South-East Asian countries. In Vietnam or Thailand, for example, almost all devices have been enabled in local languages for several years now.
He said even the Bangladesh government had mandated by law that all mobile phone sellers in the country must include Bengali compulsorily as an input option.