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

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

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

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