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The Need of Local Language Content to Overcome Digital Divide

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The Need of Local Language Content to Overcome Digital Divide

The field of Information Technology in Pakistan is a growing industry that has a lot of potential. Presently, Pakistan has 2000 registered IT companies and call centers, around 300,000 English speaking IT professionals and 14 Software Technology Parks; which shows that the technology sector has improved a lot as compared to the last decade. Not only this, Pakistan’s IT exports have witnessed an increase of twenty folds over the last few years and reached up to $2.2 billion. In addition to this, the annual revenues from freelancing and the domestic markets have reached to $90-100 and $300 million respectively. The Need of Local Language Content to Overcome Digital Divide.

Software development in Urdu and Regional languages should be
explored so that Pakistan could meet the standards of digitalization

Whereas, the launch of 3G/4G services have further paved the roads towards development and prosperity. All these stats reflect a very promising IT landscape in Pakistan. With all these ongoing signs of development in the country, we cannot neglect the growing software industry of Pakistan. For this purpose, the Government of Pakistan has introduced some national programs to boost software development and exports via both Government and private organizations.

The Need of Local Language Content to Overcome Digital Divide

The digital professionals and tech-experts have come forward while utilizing their ideas and developed software to be used in education, supermarkets, health, business, agriculture, security departments etc. But in order to maximize the benefits of technology, the area of software development in Urdu and Regional languages should be explored so that Pakistan could meet the standards of digitalization.

The Need of Local Language Content to Overcome Digital Divide

Source: Express Tribune

Advantages of Software Localization

In this digital age,access to information is the right of every individual hence software development in regional and Urdu language will help the entire Pakistani community to get maximum advantage of technology.

Software Localization is “a process through which a software application is customized for a specific language/region”

Software Localization is “a process through which a software application is customized for a specific language/region”. Some fundamental advantages of
software localization includes:

  • It can increase the productivity and usage of technology
  • It reduces the “Digital Divide” in the society
  • The creation of text-to-speech software for
    Urdu & regional languages can enhance the utility
    of basic mobile phone text messages and normal
    computer usage

Hence, there is a growing need for software and programme development in the local languages. InPage, a computer software, was the 1st computer programme that was developed in Pakistan that specifically helped in creating pages in various local Languages using local scripts and fonts. InPage, hence, made the software development process easy for many developers.

InPage, a computer software, was the 1st computer programme that was developed in Pakistan that helped in creating pages in various local languages

Recently, another development in this regard was introduced by the Linguistic technology expert, Dr. Agha Ali Raza and his team at ITU’s Center for Speech and Language Technologies (CSaLT) laboratory. They released a corpus of Urdu sentences that covers all possible distinct sounds, called “phoneme” by linguists that are used in everyday speech. This corpus is comprised of 708 sentences that covers all 63 phonemes and will be soon available for download at the C-SALT website.

Government Efforts to Promote Software Localization

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom (MoITT) in this regard also intends to promote software localization and discussed in its “Draft National IT Policy 2016” that it will enable all the public websites with bilingual feature. MoITT will collaborate with local technology companies; academia and industry incubation centers to facilitate in sharing of the existing and future media based content to promote the localization of relevant content and its usage. As presently, our developers are more inclined towards English language software development, hence, the Ministry aims to promote R&D in the areas related to local language computing technology and content development.

Motivation for Multilingual Software Development

It is a fact, that both internationally and nationally, 80% software are developed in English language but it is about time that measures are taken in order to reduce the digital divide in Pakistan. For this reason, apart from Government efforts the individual developers also need to be motivated so that they can take part in localized content development. In neighboring countries like India and China, there is also local language programming environments too along with the English. But no such environment exits in Pakistan to assist students in the study of software development in Urdu.

MoITT intends to promote software localization and plans to enable all the public websites with bilingual feature

Unfortunately, our academia itself mainly focuses on only English language software development.
So starting from very basic, universities need to introduce courses in local language software development and motivate the students by highlighting the benefits of software localization.

So, the idea is that as long as the masses do not use technology, the true benefits of the IT revolution will remain elusive. Unless software are not available in the languages local people understand, digitalization would not happen. There is dire need to create and facilitate environment for “software localization” in Pakistan.

Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rate in the world. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is 55% till June, 2016, ranking Pakistan at 160th position.

The availability of software in Urdu and regional languages has
huge potential and needs appropriate investments and guidance by both public and private sector

Urdu and regional languages are widely spoken with most of the population still unfamiliar with English language that decreases the ratio of usage of technology in the country. Apps and software developed in regional languages will be accessed by even uneducated people of Pakistan. Collaboration with software market leaders (private companies) for making their software products available in Urdu and regional languages can play significant role in this area. Research and Development at all levels for the availability of content in local languages can be a useful step. The launch of “e-Services” in Urdu for public use at banks, hospitals, schools, colleges and other public places can help Pakistan to become more digitally advance country in the world.

Availability of software in Urdu and regional languages, conversion of the electronic knowledge from other languages to Urdu and research and development activities are some of the areas where huge potential exists and appropriate investments and guidance is required in this regard by both public and private sector.