The growth of Internet users is mindboggling but how effective is its usage is the question. Unless computing is accessible in the local languages the growth will be minimal despite the vast opportunities for its spread.
The stunted growth will not only hamper the deliverance to the society at large but also deny opportunities to the major section that depends on the local languages for its communication. Since IT is being seen as a strong source of economic empowerment of rural masses, enhancing their educational opportunities and also sustaining the language and culture it is all the more important to encourage computing in local languages.
With the International Mother Languages Day being celebrated on Tuesday, software developers feel hurdles in promoting local language in computing must be overcome. Perhaps the biggest road block is the absence of a standardised keyboard. However, the good news is that the Department of IT, Government of India has taken a positive step inviting the developers to give their inputs. “It may be a reality soon and the spread of local language computing will get a big boost,” says Meghashyam Karanam, Product Marketing Manager, Project, Visio & Localization, Microsoft India.
However, the adoption of unicode has largely helped in localising computing as it recognises fonts of any format irrespective of platforms and operating systems. Microsoft India realised its potential and increased its pace to localise its own software in Indian languages. The ‘Project Bhasha' saw an impetus after the visit of Microsoft Chief, Bill Gates to India in 1998. Though started in two Indian languages – Hindi and Tamil – now it supports 12 Indian languages, including Telugu. Pradeep, senior lead product manager, Windows, Microsoft India, says the company now offers bilingual and trilingual dictionaries for free downloads.
Has it really helped reaching the masses? Mr. Pradeep says though there are some hiccups the masses are getting attracted. Now even the Operating System can be downloaded in several Indian languages including Telugu. Transliteration (converting English text to the script of other languages) is very popular and is commonly used by bloggers and on social media. It is an example of how non-English speakers can confidently get used to computing.
The huge consumption of content in India in local languages is another positive sign for the growth of local language computing, Mr. Karanam says. Local language tools are being used by the Governments that are promoting their daily business through the local language. The burgeoning growth of technology tools in schools for teaching also paves way for its growth. The usage of language tools are being effectively used to explain science subjects in educational institutions.