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Home  >  Tamil Digital Renaissance  >  Breaking New Ground in Tamil Software or Continued Dominance of English?

Breaking new grounds in Tamil software computing Karthik Subramanian in the Hindu, 13 March 2005

" Aside from high cost, one major reason  for poor PC penetration in India is the lack of local language software. But engineering students of some colleges in the State have demonstrated that the situation can change quickly.

Last year Kanithamizh Sangam, a non-profit society of software professionals, launched a project `Kaniyam' (Tamil for computing). The idea was to encourage computer science students to come up with Tamil language software solutions. Students of 18 colleges were selected and given a year to develop the solutions, with the promise of cash awards for the best projects. As the deadline approaches, the student teams today came back to Chennai for a final review of their projects before evaluation.

The ideas ranged from software for Tamil SMS messaging to a cost-effective optical pen, which would help in character recognition.

A team from Shri Andal Alagar Engineering College, comprising K. Sankar, V.K. Ilamgumaran and S. Senthil Anand, was hard-pressed to come up with a cheap hardware device that would help in handwriting recognition.

"The handwriting recognition devices available in the market ultrasound pen, digital pen and digital pad are quite costly. The accuracy factor is also not good," the students explained.

They came up with a simple solution: They modified the optical mouse in the form of a pen. When the user writes with the pen on a notebook, the optical character reader software will trace the X:Y coordinates. Simultaneously, software running on the computer will recognise the nearest Tamil alphabet to represent it digitally.

Moving from the written to spoken word, students of the Tiruchi-based J.J. College of Engineering and Technology M. Nalini, P. Selvakumar and R. Weslee Luckwinraj have developed a speaker-independent voice recognition software in Tamil, which they hope will find application in the railway reservation system.

Their software uses a voice recognition engine of a popular proprietary software to identify the word; then a transliteration software coverts the identified word into its Tamil equivalent. Thus, when a caller dials a railway reservation system and speaks on the phone, the processing can be done digitally and the ticket printed in Tamil.

Students of Velammal Engineering College here have unveiled a Java-based program that facilitates mobile-to-mobile Tamil SMS (short message service).

A.C. Senthil Muthukumar, S. Sindhuja and R. Shankar said users would need to download the software on their GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile phones to use the service. Once their program is fully functional, they hope, they will market it to mobile service providers.

Manoj R. Annadurai, a Tamil software developer and president of the Sangam, said some of the projects were unique. "It is easy to patch up a program from the codes available at open source web sites on the Internet. But the students have opted for more original and difficult ideas."

Software engineers said a career in local language computing could be just as fulfilling as any career in IT sector. They pointed out that the Department of Information Technology recently initiated the Technology Development in Indian Languages programme.

The Sangam is still evaluating the software and will announce the prizes shortly.

Continued Dominance of English says
Indy Ram at Project Madurai Group, 14 March 2005

"...I want to discuss the point.. made  'one major reason for poor PC penetration in India is the lack of local language software'.

My observation and conversation I had with the internet cafe operators is that educated people simply don't care about the use of Tamil

The vast majority of students would prefer to study in English medium metriculation schools than in Tamil medium schools.

Right now they may say the reason is "Tamil medium school are run by the inferior Government run schools, that is the reason why we go to English medium schools." However if there was a demand for private Tamil medium schools they will start them right away.

When I gave the free Tamil software (earlier version of keyman and Tscii fonts) to many of the internet centers, they were not interested in it, because the users didn't want it

I won't blame them...right now the focus of everyone is to get a good well paying job in the IT field and the way to get it is by possessing the knowledge of IT and be able to communicate effectively in English. The prevailing attitude is

English= knowledge, power, jobs, progressive, modern,out of the state job

Tamil = ignorance, not modern,can't get anywhere, no overseas job, no out of state job villager, poor background

This attitude is well entrenched in Tamil Nadu. It is getting worse.

This is the root cause of weakening and possible death of most of the languages of this time. This is the bad effect of globalization of work force.  

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