This is in response to the questions raised by Sagar…
Q. Is this your own endeavour or sponsored by your company?
A. The technical work is mostly done by us as employees of our company. We do the other activities like propagating, conducting workshops, involving students etc. as members of FSF-AP. Our company has been supporting us by allowing us to take time off at times for these activities.
Q. I'm sure you'll agree that English is necessary if the students want to go to college. And they are already familiar with Windows. Why then, do you want them to shift to using Telugu Linux?
A. When we were demonstrating Swecha, quite often people miscomprehended it to be our effort to save the Telugu language. I almost wholly disagree with that view. Swecha is not about the Telugu language, it is about the people who can be benefited by it. I will answer the question in 2 parts.
According to population census, about 65% in India are literate. Out of these, MIT (Ministry of Information Technology) statistics hold that only about 5% are educated in English. If any part of information technology (content and solutions) have to reach the remaining 95% literates, it is essential to have interfaces to computers in the local languages. In India, language divide is one of the foremost causes of digital divide. If we want to solve digital divide there is no way we can ignore the language part. So, the importance of Telugu.
When we say that we are working on providing "Telugu support for GNU/Linux", it does not mean that we expect GNOME or KDE Desktop to be used by a villager. We are working on providing architectural support for the development of new applications in native languages. Say, a village information system, crop prices or weather bulletin in the local language. Such applications can have a real impact on people. For all this, the local language support is essential.
By now, I'm sure u got my import when I say that Swecha is not really for the tech-savy mother-tongue patriot who wants to see the Desktop in his native language. It is for the millions of others who can communicate only in their native language.
If I were to deploy tens of thousands of computers in towns/villages to provide them with the benefits of information technology, I certainly don't want to pay a million $ to a corporate for the OS or software when I have a good (maybe better 😉 alternative.
This I think this the most important reason why Free Software should always be used. The philosophy is that I don't depend on anyone to solve my need. I don't want to wait praying while the corporate is doing feasibility analysis to decide if it wants to add a feature or a fix a bug for me. If a small community in Africa wanted a Desktop in their language, what are the odds that Microsoft or any other corporate would take up the project?
Present is not the Future
It may be true that Windows is the most popular desktop as of today. Given that the penetration of computers in our country is very small (estimating it to be less than a whole 1%), what significance really does the fact that these people are familiar with Windows have? When we have nearly 99% of the population waiting to be educated to use the technology, let us teach them the right thing!
Q. What stage is this project now?
A. Most of the important components are in place. We have fonts, keyboard layouts for input, browser and desktop application support for display of Telugu. Desktop string translations are in good progress. Telugu text-to-speech system with support for screen reader is ready. You can download the live cd and check out documentation at Swecha site.