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Jinoy Jose P | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on November 08, 2016

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Make public the research in Indian language computing

At the ongoing 57th meeting of internet governance body ICANN in Hyderabad, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reiterated India’s support for multi-stakeholderism in internet (use and) governance. But on the ground, things look a touch different. Yes, the Government has taken note of the relevance of language computing where civic communities play a crucial role. But that’s not enough.

If the NDA wants to practise what it preaches, it must focus on freeing up decades of Indian language technology research locked up in prominent research institutions. These technologies include OCR, text to speech, handwriting recognition, and computational linguistics. These should come under free and open source permissible licences, and the Government should allow civic technology communities and industry to develop solutions on top of them.

This holds immense business potential, too, given that most of the country’s 1.2 billion-plus population relies on local languages for all its needs. India has about two dozen official local languages and most Indian language tools consumers are using now on their phones and PCs — such as Indic keyboard — are either developed by spirited volunteers or private concerns such as Google.

The Government must bring together developer communities, companies and official agencies to work on building critical infrastructure and share results with each other. Private enterprise will also benefit. If rural consumers can buy products using mobile apps in their languages, reading product descriptions in their own languages, that will transform e-commerce beyond imagination. Juxtapose this with the fact that India’s mobile penetration has been growing manifold. The Government must extend support to Indian language developers by enabling them to collaborate with agencies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force. Such measures can make multi-stakeholderism a reality in India’s internet governance.

Deputy Editor

Published on November 08, 2016
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