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The Indian government wants email service providers to provide users with addresses in Indian languages, starting with Hindi, and ‘sufficient local language content and tools to access it’ in order to increase internet penetration and push higher rural adoption, reports Economic Times. This was needed because English speakers and readers in the country were low (10.35%), according to Rajiv Bansal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Electronics and IT, who said this at a meeting he called with unnamed attendees.

Do we need Indian language email?

But do we need Indian language email? In 2008, Ajit Balakrishnan, Rediff’s CEO, had questioned whether users wanted email and content in Indian languages. Then, Balakrishnan said, “there is no evidence from the last ten years of the Internet business that users want Indian languages. Rediff has email in 11 languages, and 99% of the users prefer to use email in English. One of the issues is that “practically all of the 300 million young people who aspire to something in this country aspire to learn English.”

However, in the present day meeting with Bansal, Balakrishnan reportedly said that Rediff could implement Indian language email IDs easily, provided the “government brings down the cost of Internet access to Rs 50.” Rediff had shut down its Tamil site due to less demand, but its Hindi site was “showing some signs of life”, he added, stressing on the need for affordable access to local language content.

Local language support necessary: BIS

In June, the Bureau of Indian Standards reportedly said that mobile handsets in India would need to support typing in Hindi and English, and reading in all 22 official Indian languages. We’d pointed out at the time that this was essential for growth of access to the internet for handsets in order to access content in users’ local languages.

A quick look at the Indic language support from companies:
– Google has an Indic keyboard app which lets users read and type in 11 Indian languages
– Microsoft has a desktop based Indic Language Input Tool for 10 Indian languages
– In April, Facebook released a Hindi text editor in the Devnagari script on its Android app
– In December 2015, Hike launched in 8 Indic languages, with a multilingual keyboard

Also read:
ICANN approves Kannada, Malayalam, Assamese & Oriya domain names
Multiple key factors preventing Indic Wikipedia growth – Subhashish Panigrahi

Our Indic language coverage.

Image Credit: Thamizhpparithi Maari under CC BY SA 3.0