Internet needs multilingual support for next billion people

Multiple languages and relevant applications will help bring more people to the Internet, according to participants at an Internet Governance Forum.

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The Internet must support the large number of languages in the world at all levels, including content, hardware, software, and internationalised domain names if it is to reach the next billion people, according to speakers at an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Hyderabad, India.

"When we talk about Internet for all, we have to go beyond the people who speak English," said Manal Ismail, vice chair of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), said on Wednesday.

Besides local content and software, search engines must also support multiple languages, as search is often the way people access the Web, she added.

Some participants however raised doubts whether there is a significantly large demand for using the Internet in local languages.

The demand for content and tools in local languages is not very high in India, said Ajit Balakrishnan, chairman and CEO of Rediff.com, an Indian portal.

Higher education in India is mainly in English which has also emerged as an "aspirational " language after the boom in business process outsourcing (BPO) in India, he added.

The IGF should focus on the spoken Internet, on speech-to-text languages, because that is the future of the Internet, he added.

The sessions of the IGF meet, which runs from Wednesday to Saturday, are being web cast live.

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