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Benefits of taking the Internet beyond English

CultureBenefits of taking the Internet beyond English

Bhashantara, a symposium on the need for a multilingual Internet ecosystem that taps into India’s vernacular cultures, was organised by FICCI-Indian Language Internet Alliance in Delhi.

 

 

A symposium on the question of how the Internet can be taken beyond the Anglophone realm and integrated with India’s vernacular cultures was organised by FICCI-ILIA (FICCI-Indian Language Internet Alliance) in Delhi on 18 November . The event’s theme was “Internet for All: Harnessing the Potential of Indic Languages to Tap the Next Half Billion Internet Users (NHBU)”, and it was held at FICCI, Federation House, New Delhi.

The objective of this symposium, called “Bhashantara”, was to understand and establish an effective mechanism towards the introduction and development of Indic language technologies in various industry sectors, and to give an opportunity to key stakeholders for sharing their success stories and contributions towards building an inclusive and multilingual Internet.

The FICCI-Indian Language Internet Alliance (FICCI-ILIA) is an industry alliance working towards the development of a robust Indic language online ecosystem.

Representatives of over 250 institutions—ranging from government bodies, technology companies, media and publishing houses, to language services companies, academia, financial sector, think tanks etc—participated in this symposium, and spoke about the urgency for an inclusive and multilingual Internet that will accelerate India’s transformation into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

Anuradha Mitra, Secretary, Department of Official Languages, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, gave the inaugural address. She said“It is heartening to know that FICCI and MeitY have taken initiatives in order to address the immediate need to make online content and information available to all Indians. It is important to take steps to ensure that modern technologies are leveraged into service for use in all 22 official languages in information and communications devices. India has a remarkable diversity in terms of languages written and spoken in different parts of the country. This makes India a unique country in the world. I congratulate FICCI-ILIA for organising Bhashantara to build a professional and sustainable Indian languages industry. A robust and multilingual Indic Internet will enable around half a billion people in India to use the Internet effectively.”

Industry leaders and experts from across the country took part in insightful discussions on the preservation of endangered languages of India, understanding new technology usage patterns of NHBU, and the importance of Indic publishing in paving the way for a “Digital Bharat”. Case study presentations were made by organisations that are not only boosting India’s digital economy but also creating a huge social impact as their products and services cater to the needs of hyper-local communities they operate in.

Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India, said, “While there has been phenomenal growth in Indian language users who are keen to use Indian language content to be able to navigate their way through the treasure of the Internet, the amount of Indic content on the Internet has not grown proportionately to support this increasing user base. A big chunk of the Indian population does not have the opportunity to access the useful and rich content on the Internet in their respective languages… The socio-economic benefits of using a multilingual Internet are large and immediate enough for the ecosystem to take up coordination and communication to build a professional and sustainable industry.  Stakeholders realise that together they have more industry impact and influence than working alone. I welcome initiatives taken by FICCI-ILIA to bring key stakeholders from across the country together to develop a robust Indic Internet ecosystem that will allow for more Internet services to be offered in Indic languages, and truly promote the digital empowerment of India.”

On 24 October 2019, FICCI-ILIA organised Bhashantra’s curtain-raiser, where a national level translation contest, Bhasha Anuvad, was announced. This competition was conducted from 24 October to 10 November. With the aim of development and expansion of Indic language content in a crowd-sourced manner, this competition invited participants, aged 16 and above, from across India. The winners of Bhasha Anuvad were felicitated at the Bhashantara event by Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY; and  Anuradha Mitra, Secretary, Department of Official Languages, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

Speaking about Bhashantara, Dr Ajay Data, Co-Chair, ICT and Digital Economy Committee, FICCI, said, “To meet the Digital India mission of ‘Internet for all’, there is a requirement to increase native language content available over the Internet, and to improve the usability of technology solutions in villages and rural regions. Our objective is to keep expanding our efforts to support the government’s ‘Digital India’ vision and to propel the next wave of growth for content generators, content enablers, advertisers and other stakeholders of the Indic ecosystem, paving the way for India to realise its full potential as a $1 trillion digital economy.”

 

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