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 

One 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 continuing unabated. 


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.

The 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 future.


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


The 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.

The 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. 




Despite 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.


The 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.


On the 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

The 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 sophistication.

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. 


INFITT 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 TI2001.

INFITT 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.