THE KUALA LUMPUR COMMUNIQUE
The Tamil Internet 2001 Conference and Exhibition (TI2001), the fourth in the series, was held from 26-28 August 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. TI2001, with the theme “Pathways to Progress,” was co-organised by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil (INFITT). It was the first time that a Tamil Internet conference was organised under the auspices of INFITT, which was established in July 2000.
The exhibition attracted a total of 30,000 visitors over three days. A major impact of this exhibition was the dissemination of information and technology relating to Tamil computing and Tamil Internet to a large segment of the local Indian population for the first time. The event provided an extraordinary opportunity for interactive exposure to new technologies as well as an appreciation of how much Tamil language has progressed as an integral part of Internet. These included many innovative software products in Tamil such as digital dictionaries, computer games, Tamil Front-End interfaces, and multimedia educational software. For both the Malaysian and overseas Indian business communities, the exhibition provided a platform for networking and business opportunities. The exhibition also featured many software and hardware that enriched the learning environment for Tamil and other subjects through IT.
"Net For Life" Campaign
special feature of TI2000 in Malaysia was the nation-wide campaign
to promote Internet awareness and usage among the Indian community. Divided into three segments -- "Web@8" aimed at
primary school children, "eSkills@15" aimed at teenagers,
and "eSeniors" aimed at senior citizens -- the campaign
was launched in July and within two months had exceeded its target
by reaching out to more than 70,000 people. The campaign is
The conference was attended by about
750 delegates from more than a dozen countries. Some 50 speakers addressed a wide spectrum of issues such as
teaching of Tamil through IT, Tamil implementation in Unicode and on
different platforms, developing optical character recognition (OCR),
internet search engines, natural language processing, Tamil in
Linux, speech synthesis in Tamil, building Tamil cyber communities
and business networks. The conference also became a vast platform
for interaction among Tamil internet related scholars, technologists
and end users.
Recommendations & Resolutions
At the end of the three-day event, both the Conference and the INFITT Constituent Assembly made many recommendations and resolutions for the consideration of governments, international and national organisations, corporate bodies as well as individuals.
following is a summary of the key recommendations and resolutions:
The INFITT Executive Committee (IEC)
resolved the problem of numerous font encoding schemes by
recommending only two 8-bit glyph encoding schemes, TAB and TSCII,
with the provision for seamless conversion between the two for
information storage and exchange through the Internet.
Usage of the monolingual TAM scheme was also recognised as a
viable scheme wherever appropriate.
At the same time, developers were urged to adopt Unicode for
Tamil character encoding and use it in global application software
so as to reduce dependency on the 8-bit glyph encoding in the
Working Group on Glossary of Technical Terms in Tamil Computing
recommended a list of about 250 technical terms.
These terms were considered essential for tasks such as
development of screens and web pages in Tamil and for machine
translation of documents and speech processes. This list of terms
will be available at the INFITT website: www.infitt.org
Conference noted with regret that some pioneers in Tamil content on
the web had suffered business losses due to unfavourable economic
factors. However, the Conference was confident that the scope and
business opportunities for Tamil content on the web would expand
considerably and it urged content developers to press ahead with
their efforts. The
Conference also expressed the hope that the limiting of font
encoding schemes to just two would greatly encourage the rapid
growth of content as well as content management.
Conference also urged the governments and other concerned
organizations to embark on outreach programmes on a large scale so
as to benefit people of all ages and economic classes. In this
context, the Conference noted with appreciation the Malaysian
campaign, “Net-For-Life”, aimed at children, youth and senior
citizens. Another good
example of outreach programme is the setting up of electronic kiosks
in rural and remote areas of the country to bring valuable and not
easily accessible information.
some recent reversals in e-commerce, the Conference noted that this
form of business was here to stay and that the Indian business
community had much to benefit from pursuing this avenue. The
facility for extensive use of Tamil in e-commerce will enable even
small and medium businesses and non-English speaking producers and
sellers to penetrate global market of the Tamil diaspora.
Conference noted that the teaching of Tamil has been given a new
lease of life through new technologies.
Regardless of distance or lack of local resources, it was now
possible to leverage the collective resources of the Tamil diaspora
to teach Tamil. The Conference recommended that the recently established
facilities such as the Tamil Virtual University (TVU) located in
Tamil Nadu and Tamil teaching websites located in Singapore and
India be fully explored and utilised by those wishing to teach
Tamil. The Conference
further recommended that the Tamil teaching community pool their
resources to help those countries, which lack local resources to
propagate Tamil language and literature. The TVU has offered to
serve as a coordinator for any such effort.
last day of the Conference (28 August 2001), INFITT held a meeting
of the Constituent Assembly. The Assembly noted with satisfaction
the progress made by the INFITT organisation and its Singapore-based
Secretariat, both of which were established at the Singapore
conference in July 2000. The Assembly thanked the Singapore Government for its initial
and continuing support for INFITT.
Next Tamil Internet Conference
conference noted with gratitude the offer by INFITT-North America
and University of California at Berkeley to co-host the next Tamil
Internet conference (TI2002), in the third quarter of 2002 in
Silicon Valley. The INFITT Secretariat was tasked to coordinate the
organisation of the conference with the assistance of INFITT-North
America and UC at Berkeley.
The Tamil Internet Conferences are
now looked upon as the most significant platform for exchange of
views and information on integrating Tamil language in the fast
developing world of information technology. The presence of major
multinational corporations at this conference is testimony to this
development. Consistent with the theme of TI2001 “Pathways to
Progress,” the technical presentations reflected the continuing
progress in Tamil computing and Internet applications offered by the
research and development community as well as product developers.
Each year they are expanding in scope and deepening in
The number of participants is
growing each year and the types of delegates are also widening to
include Tamil linguists, teachers, researchers, product developers,
service providers and business representatives. With sharper
definition of the tasks to be accomplished between the Tamil
Internet Conferences, it appears certain that there will be
accelerated progress in the development and use of innovative
applications of Tamil in Internet.
placed on record its deep gratitude to the Malaysian Indian
Congress, especially its President and the Chair of the Malaysian
Organising Committee, Dato Seri S Samy Vellu, for the generous help,
cooperation and financial support in orgainsing TI2001.
INFITT also recorded its special gratitude to the Malaysian
Prime Minister, Dato Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, for inaugurating
also thanked the Malaysian Indian community, including the mass
media, business leaders, technical experts, teachers and students,
for their tremendous support in making TI2001 possible in Malaysia.