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Frederick Noronha on Mon, 9 Dec 2002 03:34:42 +0100 (CET)

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####################BytesForAll Ezine Nov2002############################


Should Indian languages be left behind in the world of computing? No, argues
the NCST, whose team in Bangalore recently came out with its localization
solutions for Open Office (the free/libre and open source software option to
proprietorial office tools).

NCST's team has been working to localize and internationalize OpenOffice.org
in Indian Languages. They have localized OpenOffice.org in Hindi on Windows
and Linux, and in Tamil on Windows. 

This team has also enabled Complex Text Layout support for all main Indian
languages as well as other Internationalization features like Indian
currency and calendar translations in Hindi and Tamil, on Windows.

Localization work in Tamil on Linux, as well as Complex Text Layout
support and other Internationalization aspects on Linux OO.o is going on.

Their work has been recognised by OpenOffice.org and has been copyright
approved. On their site, some screenshots of the localized applications have
been uploaded, and there are also localized binaries for Hindi and Tamil for
free download.

Bhupesh Koli <bhupesh {AT} ncb.ernet.in>, Shikha G Pillai <shikha {AT} ncb.ernet.in>
and Velmani N <velmani {AT} ncb.ernet.in> -- of the team who worked on this --
say they need open type fonts in Tamil and other languages for localization
work in GNU/Linux. "Would anyone help us in this direction?" they ask. 

Ravikant <ravikant {AT} sarai.net>, a Delhi-based former academic and historian,
has some critical feedback. Says he: "I did download the Hindi version on my
Windows desktop. It seems somebody has translated from the German version.
And it is still partial, only a beginning. A lot of work is yet to be done."

Ravikant add that he has himself been trying to work on translation of OO
(Open Office). "Why is the translation team following a Sanskritized
vocabulary? It sounds more difficult than the original English. Let us put
our heads together and come up with more creative translations. This is
after having conceded that it is by no means easy," says he. 

See http://www.ncb.ernet.in/bharateeyaoo

Simputer maker

>From Picopeta Simputers and Nagarjun K <nagarjun {AT} picopeta.com> comes news
that Bharat Electronics Limited and PicoPeta Simputers Private Limited have
forged an alliance to manufacture and market a new range of Simputers. 

"These devices will be marketed as BEL-PicoPeta Simputers and will cover a
spectrum of applications and price points. Please see below or
http://www.picopeta.com/press/bel-picopeta.php for the full details," said

As an enthusiastic supporter of the Simputer platform, I am sure you are 
pleased with this significant new development. Consequently, we at PicoPeta 
Simputers hope you will report this with the importance it deserves.

More information at:
PicoPeta website: http://www.picopeta.com
Simputer: http://www.picopeta.com/simputer http://www.simputer.org

BEL, in its facility in its Bangalore Complex, has manufactured more than
400 Simputers for PicoPeta in a pilot production phase. 

"The BEL-PicoPeta Simputers are a radical improvement over the earlier
Simputer prototypes along several fronts. The production of the first batch
of 1,000 BEL-PicoPeta Simputers will be completed in November 2002," said
Picopeta, who are one of the groups fighting a valiant battle -- against
economics and unhelpful policies -- to put out this commonman's computing

The current price of the BEL-PicoPeta Simputer will be Rs. 13,000, with 
duties and taxes as applicable. BEL and PicoPeta are determined to reduce the 
price closer to Rs. 10,000 in the next six months, promised the firm.

The BEL-PicoPeta Simputers are powered by Linux and Malacca. Malacca,
described as "a revolutionary new interface for the Simputer developed by
PicoPeta", makes the combination a powerful, customer-friendly and
full-featured machine.

Ironically while the Government of India seems quick to claim credit -- if
any -- for the work on the Simputer, it has not even put in a rupee into the
project. The IT minister had promised to remove Excise duty on the
under-10,000 rupee priced Simputers. But nothing has happened on this front

Incidentally, the Karnataka IT secretary had also made public announcements
last year that sales tax exemption will be given to Simputers. But this is a
chicken and egg situation. The duty waiver can happen only after the
Simputers get into production. But to get into production, and catch public
imagination, they need to be priced attractively. Duty sops would help. 

Inspite of all the praise it has earned, nobody has dared to invest
significantly in the Simputer venture. Both PicoPet and Encore -- the firms
incubated out of the teams that initially conceived and worked on this --
are striving to stay alive and get the Simputers somehow produced.

Volume production will take time. But costs are dependent on volume, which
in turn is dependent on upfront large orders. A Catch 22 situation. Could
the government at least put its money where its mouth is?

Sadly, the government is yet to give tax breaks -- of any sort -- to what
has been called the "most innovative IT product of the decade". Excise and
sales tax breaks could help make the Simputer more affordable to the
commonman. Staterun facilities like ET&T and BEL could help too in making
the product more affordable. After all, it was ET&T's plans that sparked off
the lowering of PC prices in the early 'nineties. 

Indic wordprocessor

Anitha Gowda <nanitha {AT} mgmt.iisc.ernet.in> of IISc in Bangalore recently
announced that one of their projects, "Brahmi - Java Indic WordProcessor" is
now live on the Sourceforge website.

Check out the homepage at "http://brahmi.sourceforge.net";. "We plan to upload
a few more research documents on to our homepage shortly. Please visit again
in another few days," says Gowda, awaiting feedback on the same.


What's it? That is a concept of an "online community builder" that can be
used to support existing communities. PANTOTO can be customized to meet the
information needs of any community. 

It uses information architecture tools to allow communities to manage and
nurture a repository of community knowledge. Besides, it promises to
encourage information-centric communication between community members.  

"The software is user friendly, has a light footprint and works in a
browser-based environment," say the Dutch-US educated computer scientists
Dr. T. B. Dinesh <dinesh {AT} servelots.com> of Bangalore and Dr. Suzan Uskudarli
<suzan {AT} servelots.com> interestingly of US-Turkish descent, who is currently
in India.

What is interesting is their openness to study the ground-level reality, and
have an open mind on how others work and what their requirements are. Their
goal: provide support to communities, and create an online platform "where
people can interact and come together for a common cause or interest". 

Quite a big job, with potentially huge returns to how people relate to each
other. BytesForAll wishes them well.

More information from SERVELOTS Infotech Private Limited 3354, Krishna
Rajendra Road, Banashankari II Stage, Bangalore - 560070.
+91-80-676-2963 URL http://www.pagelets.com or http://www.PANTOTO.com

Gross failures

This should be an interesting contest. It comes from Dr Richard Heeks
<richard.heeks {AT} man.ac.uk>. Heeks was recently offering prizes of UKP 300 for
those who could offer ONLY case studies of e-government that "can be
classified as a 'total failure' or 'largely unsuccessful'."

"These categories were underrepresented in the initial competition, but can
provide a very valuable learning resource.  Both cases and author(s) can be
made anonymous to protect identities," argues Heeks. 

E-government cases must involve a public sector organisation as at least one
of the users, owners or funders of an ICT-based system, according to the
call going out. See examples of existing cases at:

Even if the contest dates are over, it's interesting to note that critical
voices are increasing entering the IT4D (IT for development) debate. With
all the money being poured into it, it's important to separate the wheat
from the chaff. 

That's not always easy. Sometimes, those responsible for the project are
far, far better at packaging rather than producing real reasults. We at
BytesForAll too have, in the past, have a hard time deciding between the
two. Not always have we been successful! 

Neutral IT-education

Prof Nagarjuna G. <nagarjun {AT} hbcse.tifr.res.in> of the TIFR in Mumbai is
working to study how school syllabi could be made brand-free, ensuring that
no single company -- howsoever dominant -- gets a stranglehold on computer
education in the future. 

He calls this a "secular" syllabus for IT education.

Says he: "I need some help from all.  Could you send me the syllabus of
various IT courses in the school, college, universitities, or institutions
(any level as long as the topics are related to IT) that are familiar or
nearer to you, either in electronic form or printed or photocopies or faxed
or mailed to my address?"

Fighting corruption

Satellite mapping to fight corruption?  Digital maps of Bangladesh are
proving invaluable in the fight against sleaze in a country branded as one
of the most corrupt in the world. 

he maps are used together with a computerised national database to decide
where new roads or schools should be built. The aim is to ensure that tough
decisions about development priorities and spending are governed by local
needs rather than the whim of politicians.

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2284862.stm


What's this? It's the work of Nipun Mehta.

Mehta, still in his twenties, was in Bangalore recently. 

CharityFocus is a volunteer run nonprofit organization, started in April
1999, to empower nonprofits with web-based technological solutions. What
started with four volunteers, now comprises of 1500 volunteers in 15
different countries and has served over 850 nonprofit requests. 

"The value of these services adds up to millions of dollars but most
importantly it has given volunteers a chance to increase the charity in
their lives, which is priceless," says a statement explaining this group's
raison d'etre. 

Governed virtually and supported by partnerships with local corporations,
CharityFocus operates on a very low overhead. Leveraging off its established
infrastructure, CharityFocus has also become an incubator of grass-roots,
volunteer projects. Along with the nonprofit projects, they are currently
building on a vision of being the service portal on the web and setting up
various local chapters.

Nipun Mehta, its founder, is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Computer Science
and Philosophy. He started CharityFocus at the age of 23. His conviction to
be of service to those around him, coupled with an internal spiritual drive,
led him to quit his full-time career as a Software Engineer at Sun, by the
age of 24. 

Currently, he works part of the the year to sustain himself and dedicates
the rest of his time to volunteer activities. Apart from CharityFocus, he
serves on the board of the Seva Foundation, IGC (Institute For Global
Communications), Airline Ambassadors, and Silicon Valley Volunteer Center.

URL: http://www.charityfocus.org

IT for drugs?

Check how IT is playing its role in making medicine more people friendly. 

Recently, a new e-discussion group was launched. It's called INDIA-DRUG and
is a partnership between WHO/GENEVA, WHO/India Essential Drugs Programme
(EDP), and SATELLIFE (a non-profit organization based in the US).  

The goal of INDIA-DRUG is to link health care professionals around India
working in the field of the Rational Use of Drugs to each other and to
useful sources of information.

Did you know, for instance, that most new WHO publications on essential
drugs are available and can be downloaded free of charge from

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