To discover the place of Kannada in the field of information technology, Sanchaya.net organized Hejje in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), Vishwakannada.com and Chanda Pustaka on January 22, 2012 in Bangalore. The event marked the first step to bring everyone working in Kannada in the IT field to brainstorm the ideas for future steps, and create a space for technological collaboration in Kannada.
Eighteen people from diverse backgrounds shared their experience and contributions to inspire others and explained how the possible future could be. It was not just a discussion but the start of a journey to strengthen Kannada usage with respect to technology adoption from the community itself. The forum even discussed the need and possibilities of collaboration with the government, organizations and society as well as the media to ensure that everyone is involved in this process.
Highlights of the Conference
Nagesh Hegde, senior journalist and noted environmentalist and chief guest for the event spoke about the necessity for preserving the age-old knowledge with people who live remotely and how the knowledge dies along with them by narrating a simple story of an aged woman. He shared his views on, how a simple handheld device can help a student to educate and experiment if he has the awareness to know the device in his mother tongue, how people can make use of the knowledge of their nearby nature, how Kannada can make a difference in translating any literacy work, how a farmer can make use of the information available in Kannada to make the best crop yield, etc. He reasoned the need for content development in Kannada to gather information and to share their knowledge among common men.
Senior Speakers shared their experiences and explained the need of Kannada in the area of technology.
Belur Sudharshana, editor of mitramadhyama.com, shared his experience in building the online Kannada knowledge portal Kanajaand spoke about difficulties that he faced during multiple projects carried out in Kannada. He stressed on the importance of font development, complications involved in handling Kannada projects related togovernment, community, private organizations, and from an individual’s point of view, issues with rendering Kannada fonts and need for a tool to render Kannada fonts, meta fonts, Unicode conversion, etc., impact of cloud sourcing, Google transliteration, and to create awareness and improve on Kannada related open source projects and the need for content development to communicate the common man on their own language and culture.
Vasudhendra, writer and owner of Chanda Pustaka, a publishing house started his speech by explaining how to be free from false emotions and think realistically and, practically. He detailed on how technology can be simplified and made more accessible and hence common man complexities are eliminated in terms of educating him with the help of applications developed in their own language. He shared his experience of publishing books for the visually challenged and how converting books in audio were better than Braille. The speech was ended by explaining the need to have control of computers, architecture, applications with people who know the technology and computers and by quoting the slogan for Hejje in Kannada.
Technology in Depth
Hallimane Aravinda, senior software engineer, web developer, font developer and technology blogger said that font development is the most interesting topic around. Arvinda explained the technology and the process of building Kannada fonts. He gave a brief overview on his newly developed fonts Gubbi and Navilu. He has been fixing issues in existing fonts and he discussed many such issues with the audience to create an awareness of complexities involved in developing a fool proof Kannada font.
Sridhar T.S, pursuing masters degree in free and open source software was the greatest achiever in the hall. Visually challenged, Sridhar from Soraba has built a text to speech synthesizer in Kannada, eSpeak. He spoke with real humility and just to listen to him was a benediction. Being blind, he has overcome the limitations that nature has placed on him and is comfortable to use computer and be part of the IT world. By writing software and developing tools for the blind he has shown that blindness is not about not having sight but not having the insight to use technology for the common good. He gave a bird’s eye view of his text to speech synthesizer tool and discussed the difficulties he faced and spoke about the ideas for further improvement.
Shankar Prasad, localizer, is the person to whom we can point out for Kannada localization for most of the familiar applications like Firefox, Open Office, etc. He has been working on Kannada localization over the past five years and explained how localized software helps to increase the use of both technology and the language. He gave us detailed process of how an application gets localized in any other language. And he also briefed on how community can involve in such activities like helping in translations, building vocabulary, dictionary, etc.
Vasudev Kamath, Debian maintainer and software developer Vasudev, a young FLOSS enthusiast explained the different paths to get into the world of FLOSS and involve in open source projects. He explained in a crisp manner how a person irrespective of whether he is a programmer or a layman, can take up new projects or contribute to existing projects in their own ways. He also shared his experience on how he got into this world and became Debian maintainer over the period of time.
Management and Entrepreneurship
Shashisekhar, an experienced entrepreneur and software engineer explained about the business model required for developing Kannada technology and projects. He discussed the pros and cons in handling projects with government and stated that any technology development will succeed only if it is backed up by a sustainable business model.
Women and Technology
Savitha, team leader, artist and blogger and mother of a one year old baby said that women’s contribution in any area is significantly low at any point in time though she has been proving her mettle. She shared her views on how women have to manage a dual role in handling her professional and personal responsibilities. She spoke about the challenges that women have been faced all these days to make a difference in IT world. She told about the lack of independence historically for women by showing statistical analysis. It is only since the last 20 years that women have started using technology in India and working outside the regular sphere of family and kitchen. She discussed ideas to fix these issues and how women can balance life by sharing the responsibilities with their families. She also gave few instances of how outside world, government, and the corporate sector should clear the hurdles for women to grow in the field of IT and Kannada.
Sunil Jayprakash, tech evangelist and blogger and an avid Kannada Firefox user, explained his liking for Sudha Magazine and how he developed an add-on to view the same within Firefox. But, more importantly he was able to increase the viewer-base of the magazine when he developed an iPhone app. He explained the technical hurdles he had to cross while developing iPhone Apps. Currently the iSudha App for iPhone is being downloaded by 2500+ users based in India, Europe, US and even from China. He also explained how he was able to recover the iOS developer license free by creating a Kannada Library App for iPhone. Kannada Library App lets one to read 1000 Kannada books.
Vivek Shankar, a senior software engineer represented an enthusiastic team working on Wiktionary, Online Kannada Dictionary team in Kannada and explained the process, the work behind adding 1,75,000 Kannada words in just 2 years.
Rudresh, project manager said that one of the recent innovations in Kannada is bringing crossword to Kannada online. The online Kannada crossword game was explained and demonstrated by its developer, Rudresh. Take a view here http://www.indicross.com.
Dinesh T.B, founder of Serverlots yet another tool revealed on the stage Hejje is Alipi, an authoring tool from Servolets, an NGO getting many of the ideas to shape in recent days. Dinesh took us through how this re-narration tool works and Hejje portal was the first one to try this tool successfully. You can take a quick demo of the tool here, Alipi and more info can be found here Alipi tool.
Arjun Rao Chawla,: President, Wikipedia India Chapter explained the need of collaboration in standardization of Indic languages across platforms, introduced IEEE Workgroup for Indic Virtual Keyboards for Mobiles (Indic Virtual Keyboards Working Group (P1908.1)) and also encouraged the Kannada community to be built around Wikipedia. He was also impressed by the Kannada wiktionary efforts put by many volunteers.
Paramashivappa, corporate trainer, and facilitator said that he has designed and demonstrated the prototype of a famous game ‘scrabble’ in Kannada. He has analyzed over 90,000 Kannada words, studying the frequency of the appearance of various alphabets, consonants and their combinations before designing the game. He has filed for a patent to gain recognition for the innovation. You can look at the prototype of the game in his Facebook account here.
Sridhar R. N:, software engineer, demonstrated the Kannada keyboard that he has developed for Android mobiles which made communicating in Kannada possible over any Android mobile phones. You can download the keyboard layout here Keyboard in Kannada.
Murali, corporate trainer familiar as cyclist in Bangalore, Murali gave a picture of Kannada and urban development. He gave a quick overview of his upcoming project on sharing bicycles, Namma Cycle hosted on cloud platform. You can explore and learn more about this project here Namma Cycle.
This report was prepared by with a special thanks to Team Sanchaya and the Centre for Internet & Society.