According to the Indian Cellular Association, the Government will soon make it mandatory for all mobile handsets being manufactured or sold in the country, to come loaded with multi-language support feature.
The association elaborated some of the standards the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is working on. This will include requiring a minimum of 4MB memory on all phones, out of which 2MB should be reserved for official Indian languages support. The devices should also support message readability in 14 scripts and 22 official languages, other than being able to support text input in English, Hindi and at least one other Indian language. The final standards will be published after consultations with the industry and other stakeholders.
Note that the adoption of Indic languages has been on the rise in recent times, with the launch of various Indic keyboards, adoption of vernacular languages by various apps and even the launch of phones in Hindi. The integration of vernacular languages especially in Android and iOS devices should not be much of a problem as these already support multiple Indic languages, and adding a couple of standardized fonts to the repository can be easily done with an over the air update. There are still issues with rendering current fonts on all sorts of devices, but these can be ironed out as standardization happens.
Feature phone manufacturers will face the largest hurdle for Indic adoption, as they create the OS for the phone themselves, and won’t be able to take advantage of pre existing software like Android. However, feature phones are becoming obsolete, and those that are still sold are targeted towards specific markets like rural areas, where including Indic languages is a good selling point anyway. These manufacturers will also benefit from the establishment of BIS standards, which will standardize the fonts to be used in messaging etc.
MediaNama’s take: We hope the BIS comes out with the standards soon, after which it can be made mandatory for all mobile handsets being manufactured or sold in the country to carry Indic languages. The initiative will be immensely helpful to get primarily vernacular language speakers online. Given the rapid advances communication technologies have made in the past few years, it should be easy to integrate Indic languages on phones once the standards are in place.
Note that we had discussed the possibility of the Indian Government mandating Indic languages for all mobile handsets at #NAMAindic last year. The conference also underscored the need for standards, documentation of fonts, and different fonts for different use cases. Read our Indic language wishlist for the Government. More on #NAMAindic here.