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Sunday, July 18

Why I am not excited about the new Rupee Symbol!

While the media initially went all gaga over the new Rupee symbol which somehow seems to have pushed us into an "elite" club, the reports have started coming in that it will be a while before the symbol gets into regular usage.

Anyone with interest in Indian language computing is well aware of the fractured state of the Unicode usage. Most of the media houses still use a proprietary font for their content. Even govt uses many incompatible fonts in the data created by it. Result is a typical " जल बिच मछली प्यासी" situation. Even though large amounts of text is available in digital format, it is useless for a lot of purposes. A lot of people cannot view it properly without installing tons of fonts, it cannot be searched or indexed and it is useless for most computing purposes. Lack of huge amount of digital text is one major problem hampering research in NLP for Indian languages.

With the introduction of Rupee symbol, the situation can become even worse. First it needs to be approved and incorporated in the Unicode standard which itself might take up to 2 years. Then we will need Unicode fonts that include this glyph. Since ISCII is controlled by the Indian govt, it will be able to incorporate it much faster and non-unicode fonts will continue to be used in govt works. This will further delay the adoption of Unicode.

In the view of the above, the whole exercise of giving a symbol to Rupee, is not a mere symbolic exercise which we can just ignore if we don't care about it. It has all the potential to make the state of Indian Language Computing worse then it is today.

1 comment:

doctoratlarge said...

Probably better to look into the health of the currency rather than create a symbol for it.
Unfortunately we Indians are especially prone to symbolic exercises.