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Meet Mr. Regunathan Umapathy
IT professional and Indic Enthusiast-With professional qualifications
Mr. UmapathyIT professional and Indic Enthusiast-With professional qualifications branched over diverse fields ranging from TCFITE, GIS and IMSMA to being a Microsoft Certified Professional, an interest in Indic Computing didn’t just come by chance. Mr. Umapathy speaks to BhashaIndia, on what drew him into propagating Tamil on the net and his vision of Indic Language Computing for the future.
You have carved out a niche for yourself in the field of Information Technology. Tell us a little about yourself.
RU: I am a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science, Physics & Maths) graduate and a Microsoft Certified Professional. I am also a CompTIA (Computing Technology Associate) A+ Technician. Currently, I am working as an ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) Assistant for the UN World Food Program in a remote area of Sri Lanka called Mullaitivu. My work here involves general ICT support including handling radio messages and maintaining the generator source, as the office is solely dependent on it's own power supply as most of Northern Sri Lanka, especially Mullaitivu, is still in dark and electricity is still an unknown concept to these people. Telecommunication, which has become an essential commodity in man’s life, is a limited luxury here.
You have been actively associated with the development of Unicode Tamil on the net. What brought about this interest in Indic Computing?
RU: My paternal grand father is a noted Tamil Scholar. I am originally from Jaffna and my family was forced to displace during 1996. Later when I was able to return to my house I found it partly destroyed and most of the ancient books, a lifetime’s worth of collection, stolen. This irreparable loss made me realize the importance of publishing on the web. Another inspiration, if it can be termed so, happened nearly two decades ago, when the famous Jaffna town library was razed to the ground. One thing is clear to me now that if I want to preserve any work there is nothing better than putting it on the web. That provides universal recognition and a stability that hard print might lack.
Tell us about your experiences in the field of Tamil computing and how it all started for you.
RU: When I joined UNDP Mine Action in 2002 I was asked to prepare piece in Tamil for an upcoming press release. I found myself in a Catch 22 situation as at that time, I was not aware of a Tamil typewriter keyboard and neither could I accept my inability at my first project there. That is when I got on to Google and I found the Nalinam software that used a Phonetic keyboard. That was a relief to be able to complete the assignment by deadline. Nalinam actually used the TSCII (Tamil Standard Code for Information Interchange) format. Later on playing around further, I found UNICODE encoding is much more appropriate than preparatory encoding. However I didn't give up TSCII as my favorite Arc View software didn't support UNICODE.
You've worked on a number of development projects. What do you think is the way to develop Indic Computing content etc. on the web?
RU: I have been contributing to Tamil Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://ta.wikipedia.org ) right from 7 Aug 2005 and I became an Administrator from 1st April 2006. People from all over the world are contributing to this project and I personally invite more participation in this project. Legend has it that when Lord Rama was building the bridge to Lanka, even small squirrels chipped in. This is what I want, any and everybody’s contribution, however minimal that they might think it is, to Indic Computing and the project of Indic development.
You have been involved with Text to Speech technology. Is Text to Speech being brought out for Indic languages as well?
RU: Right now I have text to speech in English only. You can find it at http://geocities.com/umapathyxp/cv.html . Most of the underlying code I got it from Microsoft. To be frank, I haven’t had the time to branch the Text to Speech technology in any of the Indian Languages. If I get enough time and resources I may look into this in future.
How is current working experience with the United Nations? Does it fit in with your larger frame of things?
RU: The UN job is interesting. We do have our own communication though VHF (Very High Frequency) and HF (High Frequency) systems as we don't have telecom facilities in the area where I am working from right now. My contract is to expire soon. So I may or may not be with UN in future. But I am thankful as it has given me an excellent exposure, training and working experience on IT Sector.
You work out of Colombo, Sri Lanka. How is Indic Computing being received there?
RU: Like I have said before, I have been publishing quite often in Tamil Wikipedia. Many volunteers are supporting the project from all over the globe like Canada, India, Sri Lanka, KSA, Australia and Netherlands and also from other parts of the world. The Sri Lankan curiosity in the field of Indic Computing is heartening. I am sure the thrill of reading web content and handling applications in their mother tongue will take Indic to great heights.
You've been an active participant in the BhashaIndia Discussion Forums. How has your experience with BhashaIndia been?
RU: I think BhashaIndia is doing an amazing job in promoting Indic computing and I am very happy that it is done through so secure a forum. Earlier I published an article on Tamil Wikipedia about Windows LIP (Language Interface Pack) and also published an English version of the same in English Wikipedia. However later I found that the English version of the article was deleted without my knowledge. Best thing about BhashaIndia is that there is always some body answering the questions raised in the forums and I very happy to note that most of the forum discussions are fairly accurate, which speaks volumes on the standard of linguistic and technical acumen among those associated with BhashaIndia. It is definitely positive to know that BhashaIndia shows up high on the Google search pages. In fact I actually came to know about BhashaIndia first through Google and Wikipedia.
You're one of the most sought after developers on the BhashaIndia Forums. How do you think BhashaIndia could further enhance the work it is doing with the Indic Computing Community?
RU: Back when I was an undergraduate student, I was looking for a dictionary and found Babylon at http://www.babylon.com, which was a big help with English dramas specially those in Old English. Babylon also provides a glossary builder but I found it doesn’t support UNICODE. I tried TSCII which seemed to be work, but due to time constraints I had to give up on the idea of building a dictionary. Now that I have said that, I would appreciate it if Microsoft and BhashaIndia can try to build a frame work for an OCR- Optical Character Recognition. An OCR in Indian Languages would be great but one in English, where later the meanings can be given in the respective language like Babylon, which would definitely be of help. Another approach like I have said earlier is the Tamil Wiktionary. I am picking Tamil as a typical example as it is mentioned that many Indian languages are no longer in active development.

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