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Tamil for the e-mail age

T. Ramakrishnan


CHENNAI: Kathir is a Tamil fan even though he lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He writes messages in Tamil and sends them by e-mail to friends and relatives in India.

He says he would like to interact with his people only in "my language," but the problem is that his friends and relatives find it almost impossible to understand what he has written. If they are able to, they cannot reply. To use information technology parlance, the problem is due to "entry barriers" such as the absence of standardised font and keyboard driver.

These problems are not unique to Tamil; every Indian language faces them. "To overcome these, we have decided to launch the Indian Language Technologies Launch Program," Dayanidhi Maran, Communication and Information Technology Minister, told The Hindu .

Tamil has been covered as the first step. Several tools and products have been developed to enable the use of the language on computers. This initiative constitutes a synergy between the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, an organisation under the Ministry, and other "Tamil-spirited" bodies. Among the tools they have developed are True Type fonts, Unicode complaint Open Type fonts, Tamil version of Bharateeya Open Office that can be used on Windows and Linux.

The programs are on a compact disc and the Ministry plans to distribute three million copies free of cost. The contents of the disc can be downloaded from the site http://www.ildc.in. "We will distribute them through schools and libraries," Mr. Maran says. His department has drawn up a plan to cover all the Indian languages in a phased manner.

Conscious of the scope for immense work in local language computing, Microsoft Corporation has formulated a series of activities for Indian languages. It has come out with a Tamil version of Office 2003. "We want to promote development of applications in Tamil. This is why we attach importance to training besides research and development," says Ravi Venkatesan, chairman of Microsoft India.

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