Rediff Logo Infotech Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
June 27, 1997


Seminar focuses on computing in Indian languages

Localisation of software in developing countries can take place if there is adequate infrastructure to support the systems and proper orientation towards the concept among people in these countries.

A seminar organised on Monday at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in South Bombay discussed the importance of localisation of software in Indian languages and its criticality to a multilingual and multicultural society like ours.

Professor Kenneth Keniston from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, delivering the keynote address on the politics, culture and software in various societies and countries including India said that localisation of the 10-12 main languages in India is possible, only if infrastructure and computer education is provided at grassroots levels as in other countries.

Keniston said that China has made advances in the field of localisation of software and has been able to attract massive foreign investment in computer industry mainly due to its vast market. For all the bad reasons its easier to deal with a tough regime in China than to do so in India, he opined.

There is a uniform desire in India to move with time and develop schools, basic amenities, and information technology at the village level, he said.

In the United States, the information technology industry is driven by profit motive and service to society has taken a backseat but recently Microsoft CEO Bill Gates donated $200 million for Internet access to the deprived in poor regions.

A presentation was given by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing elaborating on development of localisation through the times and on GIST 900 software developed for the purpose.

Localisation was introduced in India with the development of integrated Devanagari terminal project at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 1983. Subsequently, progress was made in data interchange in keyboard and standardisation of keyboard for Indian scripts.

IBM PC add-on cards were developed in 1988 and finally in 1991 the Bureau of Indian Standards standardised Indian Standard Code for Information Interchange.

The GIST 900 localisation software is a compact reliable card terminal. The technology was transferred to 25 major information technology companies in India in 1990 and has wide applications as it provides a common platform for all Indian languages.

The characteristics include a common character set for all Bramhi based scripts, common phonetic keyboard, inscript layout for all these scripts, transliteration between Roman and other scripts and spell checks for Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.

Progress has been made in font development like standardisation of characters in the ISFOC scheme and creating aesthetic fonts in various scripts.

The GIST terminals are compatible on DEC VT 100/220/320 mutilingual capability.

Harsh Kumar of Konkan Railways, discussing the pre-requisites of the emerging computer market said that the new market comprises of single machine, large number of organisations, spread of the size and value of products and higher concentration of IT products in small towns.


Tell us what you think of this story