Multilingual Computing

Published : May 18, 2007 00:00 IST

Recently released language CDs, a splendid addition to the resource base in Indian language computing. C-DAC is the largest single contributor to this effort.-

Recently released language CDs, a splendid addition to the resource base in Indian language computing. C-DAC is the largest single contributor to this effort.-

FROM the heady days in the late 1980s when C-DAC kickstarted Indian language text creation and editing with its pioneering Graphical and Intelligence-based Script Technology (GIST) plug-ins for the personal computer, the institution has played a central role in bringing the benefits of computer technology to the `other India' for which English was not an option. Its home base in Pune resulted in that city becoming the epicentre of vernacular computing developments, with dozens of private players basing their development efforts there.

A decade later, in 1997, C-DAC released the "Leap" multilingual office productivity suite, which allowed users in multiple Indian languages to produce text documents and presentation material and create professional quality brochures and flyers in much the same way that Desk Top Publishing (DTP) tools were being harnessed in English.

By end-2007, C-DAC, which is the largest single contributor to this effort, expects to cover the remaining 12 languages. The centre wisely absorbed some excellent technology created at places such as the Utkal University, Bhubaneswar (for the CD in Oriya); the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (in Kannada); and Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (in Assamese).

A key contributor was Cyberscape India, makers of the well-known Akruti range of language computing products. Modular Systems, creators of the Ankur language solutions, pitched in with some inputs.

At the base of all these tool sets lay an open-source operating system that C-DAC has built to run "Bharateeya OO", C-DAC's realisation of an open-source office suite. But the CDs are tailored to run equally well under Windows or Linux.

Ever since the language tools were made available, over 7.5 lakh copies have been downloaded and about 3.5 lakh free CDs ordered.

"The Basic Information Processing Toolkit (BIPK) being released by way of language CD for free mass usage will steer the movement for content creation in Indian languages," feels Mahesh D. Kulkarni, Programme Coordinator, GIST. "The contents in Indian languages are vital resources for further development of NLP [Natural Language Processing] tools such as thesaurus, dictionaries, spell checker, grammar checker, machine translation system, speech recognition system, text-to-speech, and so on. The tools that have been released are useful for the common man and will help increase the productivity and penetration of IT through Indian languages," he added.

An Indian language browser that converts English and foreign language text seamlessly is a work in progress at C-DAC today. But if the samples out there, such as the railway application form, are any proof, it is almost there.

Anand Parthasarathy
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