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India Language Stack can help overcome barriers of communication: MeitY Secretary

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Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India, has 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. He was addressing the symposium for Indian Languages Technology Industry ‘Bhashantara’, jointly organised by FICCI, Technology Development for Indian Languages (TDIL), Ministry of Electronics and IT, and Indian Cellular Association (ICA) in New Delhi.

“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. The MeitY Secretary also added that with internet access becoming affordable, demand for regional content is increasing and will continue to grow.

Sawhney also launched e-Aksharayan in seven 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.

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 cross-lingual success, machine language translation, OCR etc and standards have been created for industry to leverage for putting in place products such web series in language technology.

Chetan Krishnaswamy, Director, Public Policy, Google said that there is need to localise Indic languages and find ways to incorporate it to the internet. Hindi voice search is growing at 400 per cent year-on-year. The consumption of local language is increasing. By 2021, Indic language users will grow at a CAGR of 18 per cent to reach 536 million from current 234 million. English users will grow at three per cent 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.

Pankaj Mohindroo, National President, Indian Cellular Association, 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.

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 in to an electronic form that can be accessed digitally.

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.

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

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