Telugu has become an official full member of the US-based Unicode Consortium, paving the way for standardised, user-friendly fonts and scripts for the language on computers.
Telugu is the first Indian language to join the consortium as a full permanent member although two other Indian languages - Hindi and Tamil - are already institutional members, said Andhra Pradesh Minister for Information Technology and Communications Ponnala Lakshmaiah.
Mr. Lakshmaiah told PTI here that the government of Andhra Pradesh has joined Unicode as its tenth member, along with world leaders in IT such as Adobe Systems, Apple Inc, Microsoft Corporation, Oracle America, Google Inc, IBM Corporation and SAP AG.
Unicode develops Unicode Standard Unicode Locales (CLDR) and other standards and these specifications form the foundation for software internationalisation in all major operating systems, search engines and applications.
The minister attended the first International Telugu Internet Conference (ITIC) in Milpitas, California, recently, which brought together leaders in the field of language computing relating to Telugu for a comprehensive overview of the rapidly expanding area of research and development.
He made the announcement about the success of the government in becoming a full member of the Unicode Consortium at the conference.
At the conference, scientists and technologists in the field of language computing in Telugu assessed the state-of-the-art technologies and tools available to internet users and consumers of IT products in Telugu with a focus on the promotion of Telugu on the internet, he said.
“This is the major step after Telugu has been recognised as a prachena bhasha (classical language) last year,” he said.
There are 84 million people in Andhra Pradesh and another 110 million Telugu-speaking people outside India. Mobile penetration in Andhra Pradesh is very high, at 75 per cent, and it is time to modernise the language and make it as a mass communication tool, said the minister.
“This recognition throws up more business opportunities in the field of internet, information technology and telecommunications and telecom providers can use the standardised fonts and scripts to reach more customers,” he added.
Mobile proliferation is phenomenal in every village and even uneducated persons can do a text SMS in Telugu. There is a plethora of fonts available in English, but only two in Telugu - Gowthami, owned by Microsoft, and Pothana, owned by a private company. Authors and ordinary people find it difficult to use the fonts to write e-books or other forms of communication, he said.
Now there will be more free tools available and plans are afoot to introduce spell check, grammar check and thesaurus facilities for Telugu, he said.
“We have taken membership in the consortium by paying Rs 7 lakh. This is the first-ever amount spent by the government of Andhra Pradesh on technology in the post-Independence era,” he said.
The government would now bring out an order making it compulsory for all departments to issue correspondence, notices, tenders and other forms of communication only in Telugu and revamp government websites with user-friendly Telugu fonts.
Mr. Lakshmaiah has already visited San Jose in Silicon Valley, Fresno in California, New York, New Jersey and Washington and will now travel to Detroit to meet with high officials of General Motors and Dallas, Texas, to address chambers of commerce and meet the CEOs of telecom giants like AT&T.
The minister also used the opportunity to meet with potential investors, entrepreneurs, private equity and IT leaders from across the US to highlight Andhra Pradesh as a favourable investment destination and said online marketplace Amazon has agreed to invest $ 100 million more on their facility in Hyderabad.
In addition, CISCO and Deloitte have agreed to hike their investments in Andhra Pradesh. He also met the CEOs of CISCO, Amazon, Infinite IT Solutions, Blackrock Investment Managers, Tishman Constructions, Salesforce.com and Goldman Sachs, among others.
To attract global investment, the government is contemplating providing free wi-fi to all users in the city, he said. There are only 10 cities in the world with complete wi-fi and none in India, he said.
“This will be a good selling point to attract investments and non-resident Telugus who have expertise in the field have come forward to assist the government in the process,” he said.
He said animation and gaming would be the new thrust areas in the State and a special park will be established soon. Also, the government will promote R&D in the areas of hardware technology, as the country’s import bill for hardware could surpass oil import bill.
The government will also set up an Andhra Pradesh Information Technology Council soon, with expert advisors from the US to start with. The advisors will act as Andhra Pradesh’s goodwill ambassadors in the US with a specific mandate to attract business and services in their area of expertise.
He said Hyderabad will also be promoted as an international destination for hosting global conferences.
Hyderabad has recently joined New York and Shanghai as world-class conference cities. It has world-class auditoriums and infrastructure, with one of the world’s best airports to boot.
In the coming months it will host global conferences such as Advantage AP in February next year, with delegates from major corporations around the world in attendance, with a view to promote the State as an ideal investment destination.
Subsequently, the India Soft conference in March, 2012, is touted as a major buyer-seller meet. Going ahead, the International Conference of Software Engineers will be held in Hyderabad in 2014, he said.