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Bengali crosses desktop lingo barrier

Calcutta, Dec. 7: You can now use the computer to chat, e-mail, browse the internet, access an archive of public domain works by Bengali writers and read the almanac (ponjika) in Bengali.

In the first successful project of localisation of Indian languages, Ankur, an initiative of a group of academicians, students, professionals, linguists and techies — all volunteers and without any financial backing — from India and Bangladesh, will bring Bengali to the desktop, based on Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS).

A downloadable version of it that can present a basic-level desktop designed to perform functions equivalent to Microsoft Windows, will be posted on the Net tomorrow. The localisation efforts by Ankur will help millions of Bengali-speaking population access computing benefits through low-cost means.

Localisation is the process by which software and computing systems are adapted to a particular language and the specific cultural habits of a region. However, before the process of localisation can begin, the software has to be internationalised to support multiple languages and local customs.

“The local language framework makes it easier to take e-governance initiatives to the grassroot levels,” Ankur member Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay said. “Government machinery and protocols can be best utilised through the local language and nuances, which can reach the largest number of people. The Ankur Bangla project covers all aspects of localisation. It aims to provide a ‘Bengali computing experience’, while creating a standard framework and infrastructure which makes computing scalable and economically deployable,” he said.

Defined broadly, e-governance is the use of IT, communications and telecommunications to promote an efficient and effective government, facilitate access to government services, allow greater public access to information and empower people by making the government more accountable to citizens. The project may involve delivering services over the internet, telephone, community centres, wireless devices or other communication systems at reduced cost and increased productivity.

Ankur has been in talks with the Bengal government for the past six months. The group, however, did not get any projects from the state government.

“We have been approached by CBSE officials to use the project framework for digitisation of the syllabus to Bengali, using which they will tap the Bangladesh market,” Indranil Dasgupta, founder of the Linux User Group in Calcutta, said. “Jadavpur University and the Forum of Scientists, Engineers and Technicians (Foset) are also in the process of adopting the Ankur framework for localised low-cost computers.”

This, despite the fact that the government’s much-flaunted government-to-citizen effort – Banglar Mukh (the face of Bengal) – has fallen flat on its face.

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