Update: Murthy informs MediaNama that the Rupee Symbol has also been accepted at the ISCII (Indian Script Code For Information Interchange)

Earlier: At the INK Conference today, Sudarshan Murthy, GM (Applied Research) at Wipro shared what he called ‘the domino effect of the Rupee Symbol’, highlighting the technological challenges faced by digital Indian businesses in incorporating and displaying the Indian Rupee Symbol, and the numerous dominos that need to fall into place:

The Indian Rupee symbol needs to be stored at text, not as a drawing, he said, and whenever an application encounters it: it needs to be interpreted and displayed. At present, if you incorporate the symbol on a file and send it to someone else, unless that person has the font installed, it won’t be displayed. “It’s not an Indian problem, but a global problem,” he said. There is a storage domino: it doesn’t matter how the font is inputted, but it needs to be stored. Typically, every text character is stored as a number or character. ASCII is one, but there is no room in ASCII for another character. There are other schemes, but most of them are outdated, and the only scheme where the Indian Rupee Symbol has been incorporated, is Unicode.

It’s also not just about incorporating the Rupee symbol into text, but also encoding it in barcode and braille; ironically, he added, the ministry of finance announcing the Indian Rupee Symbol used the Characterset from Windows 1252, which has been retired.

There’s an issue with incorporating the symbol across India as well: while it is possible for Microsoft to update the Office software with an Indian Rupee patch, in India, where piracy is rife, the it isn’t possible to upgrade the font base of all PC’s. Fonts are most important: “I can make up new fonts as I go, with the symbol, but MS Windows ships with 100 fonts, which needs to incorporate the Indian Rupee Symbol, just so you can see the rupee sign on your screen,” he said. Even if you’re able to upgrade the operating systems, the high end, high speed printers which many offices use, cannot print the symbol because they store the font on the printer, not the computer. So someone will need to upgrade printers. Similarly, at present, there is no solution for speech synthesisers (text to audio), which today are unable to read the Indian Rupee symbol. OCR’s which are trained, are also very hard to fix. There is a need to set up computers, printers, applications, cash registers, credit card readers, barcode scanners.

Several dominos, for input (keyboards, mobile keypads, speech recognizers, readers, OCR), process and output dominos must fall into place. Applications need to be changed, webpages need to be changed. Who will take on the cost?

Murthy’s contention is that individuals and small business users might be left behind because many of them don’t use genuine software. “Indian rupee enabling computers might be a lot easier outside India,” he said.

ED: We still are unable to incorporate the Indian Rupee Symbol at MediaNama. In case you know how, please do help. I’ve noticed that for a few media organizations, which publish the Indian Rupee Symbol, the apostrophe key is placed.

Disclosure: We’re attending the INK Conference on the invitation of its organizers. For the duration of our stay here, they’re bearing the cost of our travel from Pune to Lavasa and back, as well as our stay at the conference. Content is (and always will be) at our editorial discretion.