In the parting issue of BITS and Pieces, we get together with Sarika Gulyani, Director, and Head-ICT,Digital Economy & FICCI-ILIA Division at Federation of Indian Chambers of Com at FICCI. FICCI is the voice of India’s business and industry and influences policy making in the country. Join us with Sarika Gulyani as she talks about Indian languages and their importance in the Indian economy.
The present government seems to give a lot of importance to Indian languages. What is the browser agenda?
The government has always had its focus on the Indian language technologies. We should remember that it is because of the Indian Government’s efforts that today, India has a number of Indic computing projects of international standards being executed in several academic institutions like IITs and IIITs. The Indian government has funded such projects for decades and these project resources are now being opened for usage by the Indian industry. Presently, the topic of India Language Computing is of high significance, as India is one the global giants in terms of digital economy. With low mobile data rates and second highest smartphone penetration, the vast untapped semi-urban and rural populations of ‘Bharat’ is experiencing the power of Internet. In the last 4-5 years, global tech giants have also been investing in the Indic Language Computing areas. But the real revolution is being brought by the Indian entrepreneurs, with innovative solutions and applications in Indian languages. These companies are stirring wide ripples across various sectors i.e.; healthcare, e-governance, Fintech. We at FICCI-Indian Language Internet Alliance (FICCI-ILIA) believe this industry shall carve its own niche in coming 5-6 years and shall be of vital significance for both India Inc and the Government. We also believe that the Indian Language Technology Industry holds the key to develop a truly “Connected Knowledge-based digital society for Indians across the globe”.
Can you tell us more about FICCI-ILIA and how is it involved in getting things moving?
FICCI being the oldest apex chamber of India has always been on the forefront to understand the needs and requirements of the industry and voicing its concerns to stakeholders. Understanding the growing imminent need from language technology industry and to have specific member driven alliance working towards the promotion of indic content and growth of language technology industry, FICCI-Indian Language Internet Alliance (FICCI-ILIA) was formed in 2017. FICCI-ILIA is a member driven alliance and currently we have 300+ members from the language technology industry, with more getting added every day. In our short span of operations, we have garnered the status of being named the only industry alliance for the Indian Language Technology Industry. This has helped us voice the concerns of this industry to important stakeholders and policy makers. Through our activities, we regularly channel the needs of the industry and help policy makers to formulate favourable polices for the industry. With the constant support from our members, we hope to build a strong future for the Indian Language Technology Industry and FICCI-ILIA would continue to work with various state and central government departments to advocate for favorable policies for the development of the industry in coming years.
What do you think are the main problems that ail the language and language technology industry in India today?
There are many challenges that this industry faces, some of the prominent ones are non-unified nature of the industry, lack of awareness about the profitability of the industry and lack of standards when it comes to global standards of localization products and services. FICCI-ILIA since its operations have been working towards bringing all the stakeholders under its single common platform for the discussions. In our several meetings with members, the singular point that has been highlighted by all the stakeholders is the need for a comprehensive policy to support content generation and technological innovation in Indian regional languages both at the State and Centre. Also this industry has not received sufficient promotion and marketing like the IT and ITeS industry. This has led to a general belief that the industry is not profitable enough for investment, leading to low innovation in the area. FICCI-ILIA in its constant endeavor is advocating to the policy makers to device mechanism for promotion of indic languages especially in tier 2, tier 3 cities and Common Service Centers; awareness generation about the monetization aspects of the industry and the significance and importance it holds in the economic growth of the country.
What do you think are the measures that need to be taken to address these problems?
The Indian language technology industry needs major focus in areas of policy advocacy with Centre and State departments and bringing their efforts into alignment for the consolidated development and growth of the language technology industry. Also we believe that the government in its role as the incubator for this industry should invest heavily in the consumption of the language technology services leading to greater promotion of the profitability of the industry. Finally, India has a gargantuan appetite for digital content consumption in Indic languages. This opens a huge window for the industry to grow and attract investments, FICCI-ILIA is working with government departments for the formulation of favorable policies for the betterment of the industry and adoption of global best practices.
Do you see a huge earning opportunity for Indian language professionals going forward?
Innovation is the key for the entrepreneurs of this industry and shall be the USP for the Indian language professionals in the long run. We are currently in the era of Artificial intelligence (AI) based machine translation (MT) systems and technology shall keep upgrading but even with such technological advancements, human translators would continue to be important for this industry. The need for the professionals is to constantly upgrade themselves as the technology advances. AI and ML would be the front runners in the language technology business but with better equipped workforce the industry shall reap greater benefits impacting various other sectors like BFSI & healthcare. Also, in coming years we will see an explosion of Indic content on the web and this would lead to content monetization for both indic content developers and users. This would create not only new employment opportunities for indic language speakers of the semi-urban and rural areas but shall push the technology to be more innovative and inclusive for the Next Billion Internet users. We believe that an industry grows because of its people and the efforts everyone puts in the development. This industry also calls for the development of the professionals of this industry in a collective manner.