RealTime IT News

Indian State Implements Tamil Language Net Plan

The 75 million-strong Tamil speaking population worldwide has received a boost in cyberspace, thanks to a $1.25 million local language initiative launched by the Tamil Nadu government to promote online content.

The initiative, announced by Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, includes seed support for a state-level Tamil Internet Research Center and a World Tamil University.

The state government will also approach the International Unicode Consortium for seeking membership and participation regarding Tamil encoding in Unicode, for platforms like Windows 2000.

Karunanidhi said the state government would work closely with the governments and IT sectors of Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka on such Tamil language initiatives; Tamil is an official language in these countries as well.

According to Manoj Annadurai, a speaker at the recent TamilNet 99 conference, less than two per cent of the population in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu currently uses computers, and most of this usage is in English.

The governments support for online initiatives and keyboard standardization drives in the local language is expected to be instrumental for tapping into Tamil-speaking rural and home markets in India and the Tamil diaspora.

There are abut 60 million Tamil speakers in India, and 15 million overseas in countries ranging from Britain and the U.S. to Malaysia and Mauritius.

Numerous other initiatives for online Tamil publishing are expected to coordinate their efforts with the Tamil Nadu government, said Naa Govindasamy, a lecturer at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who has been working on a Tamil Unicode editor and multi-script URL software.

Several semi-commercial efforts have thus far been launched to globally coordinate Web publishing and online business among the Tamil population, such as ChennaiOnline, International Tamils Motivational Movement, TamilNet and TamilNation.

Karunanidhi said the use of Tamil on the Internet is far greater than any other Indian language.

The first TamilNet conference was held in 1997 in Singapore; the second one was held this month in Chennai where participants decided on a standardized Tamil keyboard based on the phonetic system as well as a base character encoding scheme.

This initiative is accompanied by a major infrastructural drive in India to enable widespread online access via community Centers and Internet kiosks, with assistance from London-based WorldTel.

"A global Tamil village is in the making," said Ramasamy Chidambaram Pillay, Minister for Education and Science, Mauritius.

Earlier, the Tamil Nadu government had announced that it would set up a distance learning Center to teach Tamil in Mauritius through the Madras University.

S. Thondaman, Sri Lankas Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure, said that in three decades the global Tamil population would reach 100 million.

"The challenge before the Tamil speaking community is to bring marvelous innovations like the Internet accessible to a growing number of people," he said.

Malaysian Public Works Minister Dato Seri S. Samy Vellu said Tamil is one of the oldest classical languages in the world.

Tamil software standards and online education initiatives would help "create a competitive edge for speakers of the Tamil language in the new digital economy."