APJ Abdul Kalam, Former President of India, speaking at the World Wide Web conference in Hyderabad made a pitch for a multilingual web, saying that in its current form, the World Wide Web has its shortcomings – “The language barrier is the biggest hinderance in making the Web truly democratic. Originally the lingua franca of the web was mainly English, and while the situation has started to change, much more needs to be done. The development of a country is directly determined by the amount of content in the countrys native language available on the web.” More interestingly, Kalam suggested cross-lingual access to the web, saying that knowledge grows by sharing, and language should not be an impediment here. He said that rural folk need to be convinced that the web is useful for them, and at present, the community on the web tends to generate content for its own consumption.

Evolution of a Societal Web

Kalam suggested the implementation of frameworks, wherein a farmer can make a call and ask a question in his local language, and this should be translated on the fly into multiple languages, for searching a knowledge base, the relevant data culled from the right to information, irrelevant data discarded, and the answer, the answer should then be translated back into the language of the farmer, and delivered to him in a human voice, on the phone. The mobile web should be his personal knowledge assistant, Kalam said.

Kalam had the following suggestions for the development of the World Wide Web
– To look for solutions on how a mobile device can provide integrated solutions of 3G and 4G applications in its mother tongue. For a farmer, the price of agricultural products, for a fisherman, the market price of fish.
– For Web 2.0 and 3.0 (the semantic web) to enhance services in native languages and the web to offer access without any barriers of language, cost, creed or geographical barriers.
– For the mobile to become a personal authentication device, and for money transactions through the mobile to be highly secure.
– For sensors incorporated into a mobile device holder, to be able to transmit data related to a patient, and get the doctors advice / consultancy
– More societal applications, given large bandwidth that 4g offers, which involve farmers and villagers who are less empowered. The future of the web is going to shift from connecting the corporates to connecting the individual in the rural society.

Kalam also spoke of a societal grid, combining the National Knowledge Network, a Healthcare Grid, an e-governance grid and a Rural grid.