Bangla On The Net
As the demand for information on the Internet increases, whether it is for work or for study or pleasure, there is an increasing need for information to be available in Bangla. Bangla books, classics and contemporary, Bangla dictionaries are just a few examples. Mustafa Jabbar, the president of Bangladesh Computer Samity, the ICT Industry Association of Bangladesh shares his views on the future of Bangla on the Internet with The Star
The Star: How can searching for items on the Internet, in Bangla be made easier?
Mustafa Jabbar (MJ): In my opinion it is not that difficult to search on the net in Bangla. It depends on the type of encoding you use. The operating systems are responsible for searching on the net and many other things. Nowadays, operating systems like Windows and Linux both use Unicode, making searching in Bangla possible. Those people who do research on the net in Bangla, know how to do it, but most people don't know that this is possible, they don't know they can write mails in Bangla and surf websites in Bangla. Software used to do this usually comes with instructions. We market a software named Bijoy which has a manual that accompanies it with instructions. Unfortunately, most people ignore these manuals and therefore don't know how to do this.
Project Gutenberg makes books in English available on the net. What can be done to make Bangla books available?
English has some advantages in terms of technology, like optical character readers, which you can use to scan a book and convert it to a type written format and this can be an editable text. For Bangla, there is no such software. So to make books available you have two options, either you can scan them and make them PDF files, which will not be editable. You can read them but cannot use them for any other purpose if you need to, or you can type the data yourself and make it available on the net. We at Ananda Computers have done some of that with books by Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra, Sharat Chandra and Jibanananda. I personally feel that it is very important that those books, which do not have copyrights, should be made available on the net so people can have access to them.
You see, when you compare Bangla with English you have to remember that Bangla is the state language of one nation in the world and English is the official language of 72 countries. English has been used as an official language for a long time and lots of people are investing in English, and Bangla has been made official just forty years ago. In this time period, it is my opinion that we have achieved a lot. We have to come up with inventions in Bangla, which will enable viewing books online, and I believe that given time, this will definitely happen.
Do you think there is a future for e-books in Bangla? How distant do you think that future is for us?
I believe every book will become e-books in course of time, not just Bangla books, but all books. For Bangladesh, unless the Internet is widely used, because currently only one percent of the population uses the net, we cannot expect advancement in these types of technology. However, once more people start using the net, there is more access to computers in almost every household, and it will become necessary to have certain things available on the net in Bangla. We have a target of ten years so hopefully by 2021, books in Bangla will be available more widely on the net.
What is the future for Bangla blogs such as Sachal Ayatan etc?
Among those who have access to the net in Bangladesh, Bangla blogs are very popular and we have found that plenty of blogs are very active. I do however have some opinions regarding blogs. I think that the Bangla blogs, which are active, are not properly controlled by the administrators. For example, it is possible for me to write anything I want about anyone I want, I may abuse them, defame them etc on these blogs, and nobody will stop me. I believe no one has the right to make false statements or slander someone on a public forum without consequences. These blog administrators have a responsibility to put a stop to such things, which they are not living up to. They must protect everyone's rights. There are laws in this country, though they are not implemented which state that writing false statements or attacking someone on these public forums may cost you ten years of prison time. So when we do post on these blogs we have to make sure we are being responsible.
How can the Internet be made more accessible to people whose primary language is Bangla and those who do not know that they can use Bangla on the Internet?
The media has a very big role to play in this matter. They can teach people by making more information available. The Internet itself can provide information, these blogs we mentioned can provide information, online new services can give information as well. For our part, we try to make sure that people are aware of all the technologies and facilities that are available, and we run some awareness programmes where we go to educational institutions and teach students how to run the software that will help them use Bangla on the net and the benefits and problems with these software. We also tell students how they can use these technologies in the future to further their education and careers.
How can Bangla be used in social networking sites such as facebook, friendster, twitter etc?
All you need is a Bangla software, we have a software called Bijoy 52 and you can write in unicode. Normally you press Ctrl, Alt, b but with Bijoy 52 you type V instead of b and you can type everything on your profile in Bangla. You can use this on any website.
Typing in Bangla seems complex. How can it be made simpler?
I don't think typing in Bangla is complex. It is very simple if you know the language very well. People don't know that we have only fifty characters. In Bangla there are a few things which are extra like vowels and vowel signs, you have consonants and conjuncts. If you know how the conjuncts are formed or if you use a Bijoy keyboard you can form any conjunct without any effort. For instance, if you want to write abba which has the conjunct of bo and bo. Now in a conjunct, the sound of the first character is always pronounced in half, and the second in full. What we do is, we use a sign like the hoshonto to substitute for the actual conjunct. Typing this will automatically make this a conjunct. This way you do not have to remember the conjunct, we have hundreds of conjuncts all we need to know are the rules of the language. Schools need to starts teaching the language properly, or this becomes a serious issue. The Bangla language is very scientific, because the words are written exactly the way you pronounce them. In English, this is not possible and words are often pronounced differently from the way they are written. I don't think typing in Bangla is difficult at all.