C-DAC Launches Project for Masses

by Sonal Desai    Dec 28, 2006

Even as Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) is busy making last minute changes in language software compact discs, it has started approaching personal computer vendors to market CDs. The project will be in public- private partnership format. This structure involves tools for mass usage (common man), productivity enhancement and power use.

It has already received a nod from HCL and Zenith Computers. Mahesh Kulkarni, project co-coordinator, C-DAC, says, “We are talking to other vendors and have received encouraging response from them. The CDs to be circulated free are aimed at promoting technology among the rural masses.”

He adds, “Besides, we have to talk to various government agencies, who will promote these CDs in schools and colleges. The state government also has plans to proliferate languages on computers for which separate tools are required. We are also waiting for feed back from the end users. We have received good response from the governments of Assam, Orissa and Karnataka.”

The CDs will also be marketed through seminars, content on website, distribution channels, bundling with popular newsletter and magazines.

This is one of the projects among the ten point agenda of Union Information Technology minister Dayanidhi Maran. The benefit for the masses entails information in local language on new projects or policies in the agro sector, easy access to health care and education, besides others.

Kulkarni informs, “We are making CDs in 22 scheduled regional languages. CDs in the Hindi, Telugu and Tamil are already being circulated. We are customizing software for Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Assamese, Punjabi and Urdu.”

C-DAC has short-listed six proposals off the 25 it had received in July 2006. 13 resource centers and 11 Content Creation in Indian Language (COIL) will also aid the project.

It will consolidate all the tools and technologies from the academicia, resource centers, private players and C-DAC centers. The tools would function on Microsoft office and open source software developed by C-DAC team. It would enable the user to use the Indian language on his system using the customized keyboard and fonts.

Thapar Institute, Patiala will do the optical character recognition for Punjabi language. The Punjab University will provide the morphological analyzer. Modular Infotech, Cad Graf Digital System will provide the fonts and the keyboard driver. Cyberspace Multimedia will also supply dictionaries, spell checker, number to word conversion software (chiefly aimed at banking application), sorting tools, translation tools, IMRC would give decorative fonts, C.K.Technologies would provide typing tutor, the Kannada Kanak Parishad would provide the localized logo and games for children. Utkal University would also provide components for the project.

The other participants short-listed include Softview (fonts), National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) Vishva Kannada Softech, Indian Institute for Science, Bangalore, Orissa Computer Application Center, Cyber Thomson and IIT Guwahati.

Citing difficulties in the project, he states, “Many people have developed tools according to specific needs. These tools should be consolidated for use on a larger platform. We have asked many of the involved parties to modify the software and customized it as per our requirement. We are also focusing on the usability factor, since the software or a particular product should be available three years down the line, if any such need arises.”

Defining other problems, Kulkarni adds, “Co-relation and mapping is easy in English. Indian languages follow the consonant and phonetic style. Though Unicode is used for a lot of work here, certain languages like Maithili, etc are difficult to standardize even on that platform. Typing should be made mandatory for people interested in creating content for regional languages in India.”

On a positive note, the concept is gaining ground and C-DAC has received order for seven lakh CDs from various quarters, a majority of which is from Singapore for the Tamil speaking population.