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Encouraging regional content creation to take advantage of the internet, tech giant Google is reaching out to vernacular speakers in India with Navlekha, a program that allows publication of regional language content. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) based program aims to encourage offline newspapers and magazines in regional languages to come on board the internet, so that they can in turn reach out to vernacular audiences.

Google announced the project at the fourth edition of its event, ‘Google for India’. Navlekha is a Sanskrit word that means ‘newly written’ or ‘a new way of writing’. The project will start with Hindi and then include other Indian languages as well.

Domain Names to Go Vernacular

BusinessToday quoted Google’s Shashidhar Thakur, Vice President, Search Engineering, “50% more Indians are using mobile search daily. But most of the documents available on the web today are in English and a very few in Indian languages. For a search to be truly helpful, it should bring you useful content, in all the languages you understand.”

Navlekha could prove to be a boon for the slew of government-registered magazines and newspapers in India that don’t have a website. It is not an easy task to launch a website, since it requires purchasing a domain, as well as hosting and maintaining a webpage. For regional languages, in addition, the content provider has to constantly copy text in non-Unicode vernacular fonts from PDF to web pages.

With Navlekha, the publisher doesn’t have to be a technical expert in web publishing, and it is fast. While demonstrating the product, Google engineers published a vernacular language article in less than a minute. By just loading the PDF and then drawing boxes around the targeted Hindi text, it immediately appeared in the Navlekha window. The project identifies letters in a Hindi text with the help of AI and converts them into a standard font.

Google is offering project Navlekha to first-time users as a free publishing tool to help small publishing houses establish themselves on the internet.

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Having lapped up the user bases in metropolitan and tier l cities in India, more and more business sectors are now eyeing the millions of first-time internet users in smaller cities, who have the potential to become internet buffs. Keeping this in mind, unlocking the regional language barrier could unlock access to millions of users.

Recently, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has come up with the ability to provide domain names in Indian vernacular languages. Social media apps like ShareChat, Mooshak, and Gutrgoo are already shining in the regional language scene. Flipkart’s latest acquisition has the ability to convert speech to text in not just English, but nine regional languages, which include Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, and Tamil. Looks like Indian regional languages are soon to become regulars on the internet.


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