“The multitude of Sinhala and Tamil blogs available today shows how technology provokes innovation”, says ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). ICTA sources said so referring to the launch of a number of innovations for users of ICT in Sinhala and Tamil that takes place today (May 02, 2012).
The multi-pronged launch that makes the fruits of concerted endeavours available to users of ICT in Sinhala and Tamil, occurs at Jaic Hilton Colombo at 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday.
In the recent past several projects have been completed under ICTA’s “Local Language Initiative” and the Wednesday event is being held to launch the following:-
- The third revision of the Sri Lanka Sinhala Character Code for Information Interchange which has been approved by SLSI as a Sri Lanka Standard, SLS 1134 : 2011. This version includes encoding for Sinhala numerals. This is to be launched in partnership with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI).
- Six new stylised Sinhala fonts have been designed by the trainees who underwent ICTA’s font development training. – there has been resistance from various sectors towards using Unicode fonts citing the fact that only “serious” Unicode fonts were available. Now several Unicode Sinhala fonts of different styles have been developed.
- A new Unicode Tamil font ‘Sri Tamil’ .
- Six new stylized Tamil fonts - “Chemmoli” series.
- A book on how to develop Sinhala and Tamil fonts.
- A keyboard driver for using Apple Mac with a Unicode Sinhala font - Mac Bhashitha.
At present using Unicode Sinhala and Tamil is the norm. Local language content is being created. Nearly 300 Unicode compliant trilingual government websites are now available. There are other numerous sites providing assistance and information in Sinhala and Tamil, such as, www.subasa.lk, www.lakapps.lk. www.danuma.lk. Now people are registering domain names in Sinhala and Tamil under the top level domains .ලංකා(lanka) and .இலங்கை (.ilankai).
Explaining the rationale for these projects ICTA source said: “If ICTA was to “take the dividends of ICT to every village, every citizen …” it had to be done in Sinhala and Tamil. Most people in Sri Lanka use Sinhala and Tamil. Most are not conversant in English. English is necessary but learning a foreign language takes time. The ICTA Local Language Initiative (LLI) therefore had to be implemented immediately after ICTA’s commencement.
LLI comprises several strata, each of which builds on the previous ones. These are: developing standards; developing technology and infrastructure; developing and localizing software; and awareness, promotion and support.
Over the past seven years, ICTA, together with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) and other stakeholders has ensured that the standards are in place. The Sinhala and Tamil standards are SLS 1134 : 2004 (and SLS 1134 : 2011) and SLS 1326 which comprise the encoding, the keyboard layouts and the sorting were developed in a participatory manner, successfully rallying many competing players around the standards. To enable ICT to be used in Sinhala and Tamil end to end the following projects were completed during the past seven years:
- Fonts: Earlier, a multitude of legacy fonts and different types of keyboards fragmented the market and hindered development. Unicode compliant Sinhala fonts had to be made available for users. ICTA lead the development, in partnership with other entities – e.g. UCSC, University of Moratuwa, Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, Microsoft, Science Land etc - of developing Unicode conformant Sinhala fonts, for the first time in Sri Lanka, which was a milestone for the way in which Sinhala is used. Tamil Unicode fonts – a serious font “Sri Tamil” and stylised fonts – were also developed.
- The Sinhala and Tamil keyboard layouts were defined, accepted and standardised. The functionality of both these layouts is similar. Both layouts are based on the “type-as-you-write” method.
- Software was developed to enable typing – keyboard input - in Sinhala and Tamil in accordance with the standard layouts.
- Sinhala and Tamil (physical) keyboards: Trilingual (physical) keyboards based on the Sinhala and Tamil are now available in the market.
- Sinhala sorting and Tamil sorting: Most computer users are familiar with the concept of sorting in English. It is available (as A to Z) in most applications. But sorting for Sinhala and Tamil had to be standardised too. A standard for sorting was needed in order to set up databases and other lists of information in Sinhala or Tamil. UCSC carried out research and consultations and recommended a sorting sequence for Sinhala. This sorting sequence was standardised.
- User interfaces are now available in Sinhala.
- The country code top level domains, equivalent to .LK have been agreed on as .ලංකා (.lanka) and .இலங்கை (.ilankai) through a consultative process for Sinhala and Tamil. It is now possible to register domain names, through the .LK Domain Registry in Sinhala and Tamil scripts.
This article is carried in the Island (2nd May 2012), Daily FT and Daily News of 3rd May 2012.