The Indian Government has launched Text-To- Speech system (TTS) computer software in six Indian languages namely: Hindi, Marathi, Bangla, Telugu, Tamil & Malayalam, and web based Optical Character Recognition systems (OCR) for Hindi (Devanagri) & Punjabi (Gurumukhi). Text-to-Speech converts computerized text into human voice, allowing people with visual impairments to listen to written works on a computer or a mobile device. TTS and OCRA have been developed under a consortium project by Technology Development for Indian Language (TDIL), a program under the Department of Information Technology.

With these technologies, the government intends to address the needs of differently abled people in addition to facilitate deeper penetration of Indian languages in governance related issues. The Text to Speech system integrated with a screen reader would also enable visually challenged users to interpret and perform computer operations with an audio interface. The Optical Character Recognition systems convert hard copies to electronic form so that printed text can be accessed on a computer. OCR for Indian scripts can make this literature web accessible. OCR can also be used to generate Braille version of printed books. OCR’s can also enable text-to-speech systems to deliver Indian language books through the medium of audio. The TTS has also been integrated with Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader and Optical Character Recognition System (OCRA).

The TTS with Screen Reader (NVDA and OCRA) CD can be obtained on request from Prof Hema Murthy (hema@cse.iitm.ac.in) and OCR can be accessed from TDIL Data Centre.

This appears to be a good move but why not include more languages? As per the government’s press statement, OCR can deliver Indian language audio books, but supports only two languages out of which Punjabi is not supported TTS, at present.

Also, TTS can come in handy if the Government uses it in various rural deployments where literacy levels are low. A lot will depend on the actual implementation of these systems in government departments and service delivery centers in rural areas.

The Government of India had also launched the Indian Language Technology Proliferation and Deployment Centre (ILTP-DC) portal, under the Technology Development in Indian Language (TDIL) program, offering a single window access system to various linguistic resources and software tools for Indian academic researchers.