In what could come as a massive boost towards promotion of local language on internet, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) today launched a year-long awareness campaign to spread awareness about the criticality of Universal Acceptance (UA).
UA is a foundational requirement for a truly multilingual Internet, one in which users around the world can navigate entirely in a language of their choice. It is also the key to unlocking the potential of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to foster competition, consumer choice and innovation in the domain name industry.
To be UA compliant, Internet applications and systems must treat all top level domains (TLD) in a consistent manner, including new gTLDs and internationalised TLDs. Specifically, they must accept, validate, store, process and display all domain names. UA is the concept of removing all technical barriers that might hinder a user from accessing any url/website in any top-level domain from any web browser, email client or other internet application on a connected device.
With approximately 750 million literate rural Indians not using Internet, this initiative gains further prominence as enabling local language content on the Internet will lead to a growth of 39% in the current Internet user base. Potentially, 660 million people would access internet if it were offered in the local language.
Going by numbers, an apparently positive picture emerges with approximately 128 million users using Indic content, but a closer look shows the true story. Of the 128 million users of Indic content, a majority [70%] of the users are only consuming video content. Lack of local language content online pushes this segment to use the internet for just video consumption.
Thus, it is evident that of the critical factors for promotion internet in India, language remains topmost. Apart from English, the most prolific language on the internet is Mandarin. Out of the total web content worldwide, English has 59% and Mandarin comes 2nd in the list. Unfortunately, Indic content on the internet is less than 0.1%.
UA compliance will enable growth and success of the digital economy, by way of the following:
– Service or application would be rendered easily in local language
– Top level Domain names would be accepted – especially those in local languages, and also those in other scripts
– Email addresses, including those with domain names in local languages and those with user names/mailboxes in local scripts would be easily accessible
– UA compliance ensures that any validation of domain names or email addresses is based on constructs and not content
– Enable storage of information in local scripts
– Process data regardless of the script
– Correct display of content leading to better user experience
In the past few years, IAMAI has undertaken various initiatives towards the proliferation of local Indian language for the growth of internet in India. The association has worked closely with the Unicode consortium towards standardisation of Indic characters – Unicode’s success at standardising character sets has led to its widespread adoption in the internationalisation and localisation of software. Neo Brahmi Generation Panel (NBGP) which has worked extensively on 9 scripts and the extensive work that went behind the scenes resulted in a path breaking development of the Root Zone. The NBGP comprising of C-DAC, technical experts, linguists, IAMAI and member companies and representations from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and set up by ICANN as an initiative to work on the Neo Brahmi scripts , worked closely and covered Bengali, Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu scripts. The work has been reviewed by ICANN panel and 6 out of the total 9 scripts worked upon are out for public comments.
As part of the campaign, IAMAI will hold workshops in various cities in India. The workshops will address issues and challenges being faced by Indic users on the internet space. For this initiative, IAMAI will be working and engaging with various, state governments; Raj Bhashavibhags, C-DAC, local Universities working with Indian Languages; local organisations working with languages; local software, web and mobile Developers; local language publishers; and online portals of the local language.