42 Years of the Internet Enabling the World Wide Web in 22 Indian Languages: W3C India Office

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By Alkesh Tyagi

The author is Deputy Director (M&C)

New Delhi, Sep 21, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The internet has completed 42 years of its existence on 2nd September, 2011. The generation that has not seen other means of communication than internet is grown up now. They find it easy to communicate online with their peers but when it comes to communicating with people using other Indian languages than English they find themselves clueless. Now this hindrance in communication will be over soon.

The Government committed to the goal of ‘Internet for All’, in close co-operation with other stakeholders has taken several steps in this direction. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) India Office, one of such steps, was formally launched on 6th May, 2010. A 2-day Conference on World-Wide-Web: Technology, Standards and Internationalization was held in New Delhi to mark the launching. On 15th September 2011 W3C India Office Workspace was inaugurated at Electronics Niketan, CGO Complex. The establishment of New W3C India Office space gives it a permanent entity and would play more active and crucial role in proliferation of W3C standards among ICT industry and users to make India truly knowledge based society.

World Wide Web Consortium

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international Standards Body headquartered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA which develops Standards / Best Practices / recommendations to ensure seamless web access to all. W3C has 19 offices world-wide   having the core objective of promotion, proliferation and adoption of W3C standards and its implementation according to local languages and culture.   The Vision of W3C is to achieve “Web for Everyone and Web on Everything.” W3C works in tandem with other standards making bodies such as UNICODE, IETF, ICANN and ISO at the international level. W3C has so far published about 183 standards for web technology and working in the future web standards. Recommendations evolved by W3C run across many technical domains.

Need for Setting up of W3C India Office

Awareness, Education & Outreach is the major goal of W3C India office which will lead to adoption of W3C recommendations. Although these Web Standards are applicable across the globe yet some of these require customization for local languages & culture. It will be feasible to have seamless multilingual web by constantly addressing these needs and working in tandem with W3C.

Indian Linguistic Diversity having 22 constitutionally recognized languages and 11   complex scripts   is more diverse than that of entire European Union.  Apart from these 22 constitutionally recognized languages India’s rich linguistic diversity boasts of 100 other major languages and 2371 dialects as per Census 2001. In India, a Language may be based on many scripts. Many languages may be based on a single script; these languages culturally differ depending on region though using same script. Even there are wide variations in the usage of the same language across various parts of the country.  Linear scripts such as Roman do not change their shape hence characters juxtapose – one after another whereas Indian Languages have complex conjunct characters. Major issues related to Indian languages like orthography – spelling issues, dialect variations etc. testify that each language has its own specific requirements to be investigated carefully for enabling W3C standards in 22 Indian Languages. Implementation of W3C standards for seamless web access across device and platforms in Indian languages makes it a gigantic and challenging task.

The Nation-Wide Flag-ship E-Governance Programme and roll-out through various national and state-wide mission mode projects and citizen services through CSCs adds a new dimension of W3C’s role in India. Internationalization of W3C’s standards in Indian context and their implementation addressing the complex language requirements would be a key role for W3C India. W3C India is also the national platform involving the industry, academia and users which evolve national recommendations/ guidelines from India.

W3C India Initiative will not only facilitate wider access of web by the people of this country but will also equip them to provide locally relevant content on the internet.  Such initiatives will play a great role in reducing poverty, improving health care, education, spreading good governance and addressing all local challenges in the global context.

The future internet issues need to be addressed from a holistic perspective by taking into account building blocks right from users, services and applications down to network. This requires a multi-disciplinary approach by involving innovative SMEs and develops drivers, interfaces, networks and services to support future networked society.

Participation from India is there but it is limited as some industry members are interacting with W3C on specific areas of interest to them. India need to ensure that all her officially recognized 22 languages can be adequately represented in W3C recommendations to make Web accessible in Indian languages a reality and in view if this the role of India becomes prominent especially in the area of internationalization.

W3C India Office

W3C India Office has been set up at DIT under the aegis of Human Centered Computing Division. The Division is implementing the programme “Technology Development for Indian Languages (TDIL)”. TDIL programme is engaging itself actively since 2006 with all the stakeholders in the country to work towards internationalization of W3C Recommendations.

Sh.N.Ravi Shanker, JS in DIT is the patron while Smt.Swaran Lata is the Country Manager of, W3C India Office.

The objective of W3C India office is to promote adoption of W3C recommendations among developers, application builders, and standards setters, and to encourage inclusion of stakeholder organizations in the creation of future recommendations.

On 12th September 2011 W3C India has  released “Internationalization of E-Governance solutions: Best practices”.W3C India prepared a set of Internationalization and Localization Best Practices for E-Governance applications to bring out the necessity and purpose of internationalization in the perspective of Web-based services and E-governance in Indian languages. The main consumers of these guidelines are the Application developers for the E-Governance sector, users and policy makers in E-Governance applications.

Membership of W3C is open to all types of organizations (commercial, educational and governmental entities) and individual. A membership agreement has to be signed to become a member. Member may be for profit or not-for-profit organization. Most members invest significant resources into web technologies like developing web-based products, using web technologies as an enabling medium, conducting research on the web or developing specification based on W3C work. For effective functioning of W3C India Office suggestions in research areas of technologies directly related to priority areas of W3C based on member’s interest are desired.

W3C India Office launched with the long term vision of “Enabling Web in 22 Indian languages” will accelerate the growth of Web in Indian Languages.  In today’s technology driven world, access to information is crucial for taking the benefits of ICT to the masses.  The engagement with W3C in building all the required standards will facilitate information access on World Wide Web regardless of languages, location, ability, generation, age and income.  This would prove to be a transformational step.

- PIB Features

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