If any scientific invention that has literally touched the lives of more than 4.6 billion people around the world then it is simply the mobile phone. In India alone, there are now 600 million mobile phone users and it is growing at more than 15 million per month. Furthermore, the number of Indians accessing internet using mobile phone is growing much faster compared to those of desktops or laptops. With upcoming launch of 3G services by private operators, this number could grow even faster.
Mobile phone is also the most economical personal device for accessing internet in India. One can buy an internet-enabled handset almost at the same price of a high-end modem. As mobile phone penetrates the vast rural areas of the country, it also brings internet to the masses. Consequently, the need for local language websites is now greater than ever.
In the technological front, viewing Indian language webpages has become much easier thanks to Opera Mini browser. With cloud-based rendering of complex scripts, Opera enables its users to view Unicode compliant webpages even in low-end phones that doesn’t have Indic rendering capability. The list of supported devices by Opera Mini is huge and it includes Apple’s iconic iPhone, Google Androids, and many more devices made by Nokia and other major manufacturers.
To view Indic contents in Opera Mini, you need to do following two steps (see this or this for detailed instructions):
- Type config: in the address bar and then press enter
- Set Use bitmap fonts for complex scripts to Yes and then Save
Also, turning on Mobile view in settings helps to load webpage faster. Here is a screenshot of my Nexus One showing Unicode-compliant Rabindra-rachanabali website in Bengali.
Other than Opera Mini, some phone also has native Indic rendering capability either partially or fully. Here are screenshots of a little app that I wrote for accessing Anubadok Online. This app with embedded Lohit-bengali font, should work in Android phones 1.6 or higher.
You can download the app from here and source code from here. The matras are not in correct order out of the box (on the left) whereas a little bit of manipulation could display them correctly (on the right). Native Indic rendering in Android may improve soon as Skia graphics library, used in Android, now includes Harfbuzz rendering engine.
Overall, the rise of mobile internet in India may be a boon for digital representation of Indian languages. As the need for local language contents grows, it will widely encourage the adoption of Unicode in India. It may also force many content providers to abandon their non-standard encoding that they continue to use even now.
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