/‘Bhashantara’ shows ways to overcome the barriers of communication

‘Bhashantara’ shows ways to overcome the barriers of communication

Bhashantara, a symposium on Indian languages technology industry, heralds the beginning of a momentous journey in the history of mobile handset industry in India

In order to celebrate the formal adoption of Indian language support on mobile handsets and development of appropriate ecosystems around languages, Indian Cellular Association in partnership with industry body FICCI, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Technology Development for Indian Languages today organized Bhashantara, a symposium on Indian languages technology industry in New Delhi.

Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY, who was the chief guest at the event, said that barrier-free communication is critical for the country and the goal is to have real-time translation capability in each of the Indic languages. “We all know about India Stack. We should now come up with ‘India Language Stack’, which will help in overcoming the barriers of communication,” said Sawhney. He also added that with internet access becoming affordable, demand for regional content is increasing and will continue to grow.

“We all know about India Stack. We should now come up with ‘India Language Stack’, which will help in overcoming the barriers of communication”

Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY

The MeitY Secretary also launched e-Aksharayan in 7 Indian languages. e-Aksharayan is a desktop software for converting scanned printed Indian language documents into a fully editable text format in Unicode encoding. It supports major Indian languages- Hindi, Bangla, Malayalam, Gurmukhi, Tamil, Kannada and Assamese. He also released Mobile Testing Data in all 22 Indian languages towards IS16333 – part 3 compliance. This data is useful in testing the display as well as inputting in mobile handsets IS standard 16333 (Part 3), which defines the requirements for mobile handset for inputting of text in English, Hindi and at least one additional Indian official language along with facility of message readability in the phones for all 22 Indian official languages.

The development heralds the beginning of a momentous journey in the history of mobile handset industry in India. Implementation of the Indian language support on mobile handsets has already come into applicability from May this year. The mobiles being sold in the country today can support message readability in all the 22 official languages of India and the input of text in English, Hindi and at least one additional Indian language.

Ajay Prakash-Sawhney, Pankaj Mohindroo

Pankaj Mohindroo, National President, ICA, said, “All of us should work towards making India multilingual in order to integrate with the rest of the world.” He also underlined about the role of device ecosystem, in expanding the horizons of Indic Internet to global markets.

“All of us should work towards making India multilingual in order to integrate with the rest of the world”

Pankaj Mohindroo, National President, ICA

Swaran Lata, Program Head and Director, TDIL, MeitY, in her address on ‘Indian Government Initiatives in Language Computing’ said that Hindi does not appear among the first 38 languages on the internet and the goal is to enhance digital content in Indian languages. She elaborated, “We have developed text to speech tech in 12 Indian languages and we are working on all languages simultaneously to enhance the content.” She highlighted that the strong foundation of various technologies such as cross-lingual success, machine language translation, OCR etc. and standards has been created for industry to leverage for putting in place products such as web series in language technology.

Virat Bhatia, Chairman, ICT & Digital Economy Committee, FICCI, said that it is crucial to give emphasis to the development of Indic languages. He emphasised that internet penetration in India cannot grow without addressing the issue of language of internet access. Over half a billion users will be added to the current number of internet users in India but substantial number will come from the Indic internet ecosystem.

Chetan Krishnaswamy, Director, Public Policy, Google, said that there is a need to localise Indic languages and find ways to incorporate them into the internet. “Hindi voice search is growing at 400%  year on year (YoY). The consumption of local language is increasing. By 2021, Indic language users will grow at a CAGR of 18% to reach 536 million from current 234 million. English users will grow at 3% YoY to 199 million,” said Krishnaswamy.  He also added that industry and stakeholders must come together and work in a collaborative environment for successful local language internet.

Santanu Choudhary, Director, CSIR-CEERI, Pilani, in his address, informed that a huge volume of Indian language content remains in hard copy form and suggested, “For digital advantage, we need to convert paper form into an electronic form that can be accessed digitally.”

Himanshu Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder, Devnagri, said, “India is gearing up for digital transformation and to reach real India, localisation is the solution.”

Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI, said, “Just like BPOs created a huge new sector, Indic language program under the Digital India can create millions of jobs.”

Considering that mobile handset remains at the centre of the ‘Digital India’ program of the Government, whereby India aspires to bridge the digital divide between haves and have-nots and which in turn expects to propel the nation towards rapid socio-economic transformations; therefore, enablement of Indian language support on handsets could not have come at a more opportune time considering that this can play a crucial role in fulfilment of this vision. As 85-90% of Indians do not speak English, therefore Indian language support on the devices will solve many of the perennial issues being faced related to disaster management, m-governance, digital payments etc.

Notably, ICA, the apex body of handset companies in India, had put in tremendous efforts in this important and comprehensive national program which went on during the past three years or so through joint collaboration with TDIL, a MeitY body, before the Indian language support program could become a reality with regulations identified and frozen.

The event also hosted panel discussions on topics related to the Indic language development, and deliberated upon other challenges being faced by the ecosystem e.g. content development community, app developers etc.

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