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Insight Talk by V. Hariharan

India has a vibrant publishing industry in Indian languages. However, digital publishing in Indian languages is a completely different story. Indian languages are among the largest spoken languages in the world, but digitally speaking, they are at the bottom of the ladder. India has 150 million Internet users, but the vast majority of these users use the Internet in English. As the next 150 million users come online, most of them will be mobile users and Indian language Internet users.

However, a huge number of issues from keyboards to fonts need to be resolved before Indian language computing becomes a reality. The government also has a vital role to play by creating the right policy ecosystem for encouraging the growth of Indian language computing. The Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution lists 22 languages that the Government of India has the responsibility to develop. The Government of India has spent hundreds of crores in promoting Indian languages and in building language technologies. However, these investments will bear fruit only when millions of Indians come online in their own languages.

For linguistic communities that are concerned about the health of their native tongues, digitizing their languages should be a very high priority in the Internet age. The Internet is one of the finest methods of archiving and propagating culture and lack of a presence in the digital world could result in languages eventually atrophying and dying.

This session will draw upon the author’s background in Indian language computing and public policy to suggest a road map for publishers.