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Govt to launch national mission for digital content in Indian languages, says IT secretary

IT Secretary Ajay Sawhney says the mission will help people access digital content, especially on government websites, in their native languages.

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Delhi: Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Monday said the government is working on a national mission to create more digital content in native languages and tools for online translation.

The project will help those not proficient in English to access digital content, especially on government websites, in their native languages. The mission is expected to start in the next two-three months, according to an IT ministry official.

Sawhney was speaking at an event organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI)-Indian Language Internet Alliance (ILIA). The FCCI-ILIA is a venture set-up by the FCCI and IT ministry.

He said a national mission on Indian language translation is already being shaped by S.K. Srivastava, programme head of the Technology Development for Indian Languages (TDIL), which is part of the IT ministry.

The IT secretary set a 10-year timeline to achieve the government’s goals while also saying that some progress can be expected in the next three to four years.

Anuradha Mitra, secretary to the Department of Official Languages at the home ministry, was also present at the event along with representatives from Google, Microsoft and other start-ups offering services in Indian languages.

India currently has the second largest internet user base after China. Sawhney cited a study of 10 million websites where only 0.055 per cent of the sites were found to have content in Hindi.

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‘Peer-reviewed translations’

Sawhney also accepted the fact that availability of local language content and their correct translations online is “too large” a task for even giants like Google.

“Even though we have tremendous admiration for what Google is able to do or other companies are able to do, it’s not going to happen only in their hands,” he said.

Google offers Indic language content on its platforms such as YouTube, offers translation services on Google Translate, and has an app ‘Bolo’ to teach people Hindi and English.

The mission also hopes to develop tools to enable correct, peer-reviewed translations of content, and also have real time translations of speech from one language to another so that two Indians speaking two different languages can still communicate even if they don’t have a language in common.

Sawhney further said the participation of not only central government but large multinational firms, start-ups and even state governments “very attached to languages around which a state has been formed” will be required to make this national mission a success.

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