Opinion: The next billion people on internet

Digital India without touching non-English speaking people, whi­ch is 89% of the total popul­at­i­on, has no meaning. Internet usage in India varies accordi­ng to people’s living areas. To leverage the benefits of inter­n­et, first of all we need to bre­ak the linguistic barrier on in­t­e­r­net. The 7.5 billion people of the world embrace differe­nt cultures, geographies, reli­gi­ons and languages. Just 370 million people are native En­gl­ish speakers. Most internet building blocks are in English or let us say American Stan­d­a­rd Code for Information In­terchange (ASCII). When it comes to internet, language becomes important. The maj­or barrier is for people who don’t know English or those who prefer to work in their own language without dep­e­nding on any other language. We need internet infrastru­ct­u­re to be aware of different scripts. The smart web and email applications need to cater all and it’s to ensure the message gets through, even if the address is not unders­ta­n­dable by recipients.

As per a Trai report, total internet subscribers in India are 350.48 million, just 30% of the population. So, 70% ha­ve no access to net and most of them live in rural In­d­ia. Though vernacular con­te­nt is consumed by people in their preferred way, still users are expected to know a bit of English, as without typing the domain name they can’t acce­ss website or send an email.

While recognising this ne­ed of multi-lingual internet and bridging the digital divide between English and non-En­glish populations to upgrade non-English population to use the power of net, a pa­ssi­o­n­ate community of in­d­i­vidu­als in 1996 started tal­king ab­out this and internationalised domain name (IDN) was bo­rn. It took nearly two decades to break a big barrier with DataMail, powered by Xgen­Plus email platform.

Now, the made in India DataMail, first linguistic em­ail service supporting IDN’s in several Indian and 4 forei­gn languages, are being offer­ed. It can be downloaded fr­om any android or IOS system free. DataMail service is a re­volution in the world as many countries are waiting to inject the linguistic email address to empower the non-English sp­e­a­kers. Currently, in India linguistic email service is being offered in 8 regional languages –Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, and Marathi.

Now, India is moving to another stage of advancement. State-run BSNL has recently rolled out the ‘digital India’ dream by launching free email address service in 8 Indian languages to empower its broadband users. This will allow the users to open an email ID in DataMail service in their own language. Providing the linguistic email address is one of its kind initiatives in the world to achieve the vision of ‘digital’ India. Here are the key components.

n IDN: It is an internet domain name that contains at least one label that is displayed in software applications, in whole or in part, in a language-specific script or alphabet, such as Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Tamil, Hindi or the Latin alphabet-based characters with diacritics or ligatures, such as French. India adopted IDN in 2014 and NIXI launched domain registration in 15 Indian languages.

n EAI: The email address internalisation is the protocol that allows email addresses to have non-ASCII characters i.e. either in Mailbox name or Domain name or both.So when an EAI compliant server tries to deliver an email containing Unicode characters in the envelope and the recipient server does not announce UTF8SMTP support, the sender server must downgrade and change email address to its ASCII alias email address so that email gets delivered without any problem. As the recipient will be able to display original Unicode characters on name part or “display name”, XGe­n­Plus innovated and recommended to put EAI address as display name and alias ID as email address while downgrading email to communicate with non-EAI compliant email server.

Going forward, our large global population will have access to internet. People, who are deprived because of language barrier, will enjoy the power of internet without any further limitations. The need to have access of linguistic email address thr­ough web is a must to digitally empower everyone.

(The writer is founder & CEO of Data XGen Technologies)