Pakistani expert helps non-English speaking Indians live ‘Digital India’ dream

A Pakistani expert is working to help India’s non-English speaking population access web addresses in their local scripts.

Sarmad Hussain who is based out of Pakistan, and has been helping develop domain names in local languages such as ‘.bharat’ in Hindi is leading a 22-member panel for the project.

“It reduces the barrier for people to come online. This will eventually help having the complete domain name in a local script, allowing the display of local content. For example, it will allow one person to have a complete email address in a local script and language,” Sarmad Hussain, told Economic Times, while talking about the importance of having domain names in local languages.

The panel, called the Neo-Brahmi panel, will make domain names available in 21 Indian languages, including Assamese, Bengali, Manipuri, Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Marathi, Sanskrit, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam, Odiya, Tamil and Telugu.

The panel which was announced on May 26 is expected to finish its work within a year. “The work is going to be challenging because they are not going to be working on one script, but nine different scripts. This is further compounded by the fact that technologists and linguists have a different way of looking at local language domain names,” said Hussain.

“In India, you have 22 languages scheduled, and there are more people living in rural areas. If these people are to be brought into the mainstream of Digital India, if the online services that they want to consume are available in the local language, it will be helpful. If the URL (web address), which is the entry to the net, is in Indian languages, then a person can be more comfortable using his own language to get the data,” said Mahesh Kulkarni, one of the panel members.

However, Kulkarni clarified that a local language domain name does not automatically mean that the content of a web page would also be in that language. “This will at least drive content creation. Since the URL would be in an Indian language, some people would definitely be encouraged to have their content in Indian language as well,” he added.

Despite this, the .bharat domain name has been criticised for not having promoted local language content creation as yet.

According to a UNESCO report last year, there is evidence that domain names in local languages have promoted multilingualism in cyberspace, and showed an over 99% correlation between local language domain name script and language of the website.

The UNESCO report also found that Japanese, Chinese, Korean and German were the most popular languages for content associated with IDNs, and Arabic script domain names were associated with blogs, e-commerce and online business sites in Persian and Arabic languages.

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