Free software opens computing to Hindi speakers

Monday, 21 April 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: Millions of Hindi speakers across India have gained easy access to computers with the development of free software for the language. - a non-profit network meant to promote Indian language solutions for free software - has announced the launch of IndLinux Milan v0.37, a Hindi interface to Gnome, the graphical user interface (GUI) of the GNU/Linux operating system.

Milan is a Hindi word that signifies union and was chosen because it signifies the inclusion of India's Hindi speaking masses into the mainstream of the digital age, its developers said.

Free software offers its use without paying prohibitive licensing fees for every computer on which it is copied.

Milan can be downloaded free from the website It works on Red Hat Linux v8.0 and is working on porting it to other distributions of the GNU/Linux operating system.

"Hindi is the third largest language in the world, yet there are no operating systems available in this language. decided to make Hindi support available for free to create a revolution in Indian language computing," said Prakash Advani, co-founder of

As the cost of computers fall, the biggest bottleneck to their widespread use was the availability of Indian language software. By making Milan available for free, this could take IT to each and every part of India, said Advani's partner Venky Hariharan.

"Milan could help in bringing the benefits of IT and affordable computing to some 400 million people who speak the Hindi language," Hariharan added.

The software promises to plug a critical gap in the market, since popular operating systems and software are available only in English, which is spoken by a mere five percent of Indians, Advani maintained.

He pointed out that as the world becomes increasingly digitised, Indian language audiences would need to be brought into the mainstream so that they can also reap the socio-economic benefits of IT. had been working on localising the GNU/Linux operating system to Hindi for the last three years. Localisation involves changing the menus and other elements of the graphic user interface from English to Hindi.

It now hopes to localise GUI to Marathi, Gujarati and other Indian languages.

GNU/Linux, also called Linux, is a major free software operating system that is gaining in popularity among student geeks, professionals and industry as India discovers the potential of the software can be freely worked on and further developed.
Source: IANS
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