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September 8, 1998


SAARC IT centres mooted

Michael Gonsalves in Pune

Email this story to a friend. The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation recommendation committee has declared that SAARC Information Technology Centres would be set up in each of the seven countries with a special focus on developing multimedia and multilingual information technology for national development.

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SAARC IT centres
"This will provide a forum for co-operation in IT among SAARC nations for development of multimedia and multilingual IT, imparting education and training and free flow of technologies and products," R K Arora, chairman of the recommendation committee, said at the end of a four-day international IT conference in Pune.

The activities of these seven centres will be co-ordinated through the SAARC Technical Secretariat in a virtual institution mode and in the interim India will volunteer to co-ordinate these efforts, Arora, also executive director, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, said.

The draft recommendations were formulated at the end of four-day, September 1-4, EMMIT 1998, SAARC international conference on extending the use of multimedia and multilingual information technology.

The multilingual IT meeting, hosted by the Indian SAARC office and organised by C-DAC, was held at Pune.

Apart from India, about 150 IT experts and government representatives from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives attended the first-ever IT meeting organised by C-DAC.

In the global software business since the multilingual software development has so far been considered as non-glamorous, not receiving the attention it deserves to propagate multimedia and multilingual information technology in multilingual countries, the government should offer greater incentives to boost its usage in their respective countries, the committee said.

Arora said yet another recommendation was to encourage widespread of the technology, all degree colleges and academic institutions should introduce a specific course module on this, both for students and teachers.

"Also, the adoption of distance education mode for delivering quality education to achieve multiplier effect in the shortest possible time should be considered seriously for implementation by governments of SAARC countries," he added.

The SAARC recommendation committee identified human-machine interface systems including speech recognition/synthesis technologies and optical character recognition, machine aided translation and research in ancient languages as major areas for further development and application.

"There is a need to create contents using M/M IT for an effective documentation and dissemination of culture and heritage of the region among SAARC countries," Arora said, adding that for this mass media, Internet and CD-ROMS are ideal choice and used widely.

The committee has also recommended localisation of important applications on a priority basis to spread the usage of M/M IT and for this it has urged services of the software industry and the users as special taskforces. To spread the information technology education to masses, translation of important course material should be carried out in the respective languages using M/M IT, the committee added.

"Standardisation of various language scripts, unification of coding sets in like language, standardisation of terminology on computer in various languages and multimedia components are an important prerequisite for faster spread of multilingual technologies and their cross migration among various applications and countries," Arora said.

A taskforce with SAARC on this subject would be set up for proper co-ordination of this activity vis-à-vis international standard bodies, he added.

The committee said the R&D institutions and industries who have done considerable work in this area should take a proactive role in familiarising users in the SAARC region with the new developments and offer their services for faster spread of these technologies.

"To enable deeper penetration of these technologies, recourse should be made to the Internet for putting a number of these developments and information on co-operative efforts in the public domain for the benefit of all concerned users and institutions for non-commercial use," Arora said.

He added that this would promote evolution of common networking languages.

The committee also recommended that such international conferences should be held every year in rotation among SAARC countries to promote IT for mutual benefit.

An annual award should be instituted to be given to an institution in the SAARC region for its commendable performance in M/M IT, it added.

Ajay Gondane, deputy secretary, SAARC division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, government of India, said the IT meeting would result in many joint business ventures among SAARC nations, creating national wealth and jobs in the SAARC region.

He said in the face of onslaught from IT multinationals like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft whose software products were cost prohibitive, this convention would provide cheaper IT solutions for national development.

Shashank S Pujari, chairman of the SAARC organising committee, said, "The SAARC countries have so much talent in terms of expertise in IT, only a close and joint ventures in developing mutually benefiting software will go a long way in preserving the Asian ancient languages, scripts, culture and heritage."

He said the multimedia and multilingual information packages developed by C-DAC would be very useful for local application in every SAARC country.

"Countries like Maldives and Bangladesh and Bhutan have already held informal talks with me and I am sure in the next few weeks the C-DAC teams will visit them to explore setting up joint ventures in developing locally relevant IT solutions," Pujari, programme co-ordinator, C-DAC, pointed out.

Meanwhile, to keep in touch with the SAARC delegates, C-DAC has hosted a Web site at to continue exchange of expertise in IT research and software for the benefit of the SAARC countries, Pujari added.

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