What Linux really means for India is localization

Summary:When I read that India was preparing to distribute Linux on CD, as reported by Ingrid Marson, I knew there was an important word that needed to get into this discussion.The word is localization.

Indian newspaperWhen I read that India was preparing to distribute Linux on CD, as reported by Ingrid Marson, I knew there was an important word that needed to get into this discussion.

The word is localization.

Bangalore, the heart of India's "Silicon Valley," is a case in point. It's in Karnataka state. The official language is Kannada (no relation to the friendly country north of the U.S.). Nearly one-third of the people in Karnataka, however, are Tamil, including many in the technical elite, and in fact, the first distribution of this localized Linux was in Tamil.

The two languages are quite different. Here's a Bangalore newspaper in Tamil. Here's one in Kannada.

Kannada speakers, still the majority in Bangalore, feel more threatened by Tamil inroads than the French feel threatened by English.  In fact you can't exhibit films there in languages other than Kannada, even Bollywood blockbusters, and the danger of violence over language issues is real.

There are 15 official languages recognized by the Constitution in India, and Indiapress.Org offers a selection,  but even this underestimates the situation. There are newspapers in 87 languages, radio shows in 71 and 58 different languages are spoken in India's schools. There are over 1,600 dialects.

How do you serve such a market? With a closed source operating system you wait for the vendor to decide there is a market for your language, or you learn another language. With open source you create a team and get to work.

It is possible that, in time, Indians will be able to get Linux in any language they are comfortable with. It's unlikely this will happen with Windows.

Advantage, Linux.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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