Dr. Attash Durrani’s* vision revealed Institute for Urdu Informatics: A Futuristic Approach for Language Development PART ONE The year 2008 has been announced by UN as the year of languages for development and dialogues among the languages of the world. As far as our national language Urdu is concerned it has a two way dialogue openings i.e. International (English, French, Arabic, Chinese, etc. and (2) local languages like Hindi, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Brahavi, Shina, Khawar etc.). This is another vista opened for language development i.e. IT and Computer Science. Future of Urdu language development now lies in this field of informatics. By the end of 20th century, it was universally agreed by the linguists and computer technologists that only those languages would survive in the 21st century, which can be effectively used as a Computer Language. The computer giants like Microsoft, realizing the fact that computer usage can no longer be restricted to Word Processing but instead be expanded to create a database for research and development and internet usage, decided to convert and produce its soft wares in one hundred different languages. Urdu is now one top most of these languages emerged on the digital scene. Urdu Informatics Department of National Language Authority devised so many projects and standardized many tables which are now in use by the computer world: NADRA, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, IBM etc. Changing Computer screen from English-to-Urdu is making it usable for an ordinary Pakistani to operate and use computer easily and locally. Microsoft Urdu Office 2003, Microsoft Urdu Windows XP have been released by the Microsoft. This initiative will potentially enable computer access in every street and villages because 92 percent of the population of Pakistan does not speak or use English. The future projects of NLA such as Urdu Databases/ Data Bank and for all their computer needs, without any extra expenditure for an Urdu support to computing, will also be a support to all others working in computing. Before the intervention of NLA, UNICODE (the International Standard for Computers) was adopting Urdu characters and standards erroneously from Arabic code plate and other unreliable sources, especially from India revealing Urdu a subset of Arabic. With NLA now as a Full Corporate Consortium Member of UNICODE for last Eight years, have been effectively warding off interference in Urdu language and diverting its attention towards our needs. How the future of Urdu be saved in the era of Computer technology, internet and IT, the answer lies in the development of the projects like Center of Excellence for Urdu Informatics (CEUI) with a view to providing short-term and long-term language policy, ways and means of adoption of Urdu as Official, Judicial and Instructional language of Pakistan, and conduct research and development for Urdu standardization and academic support to national and international stakeholders and Government of Pakistan. Advantages to the State with the development of this project are being visualized as: Having everything in Urdu on Computers will promote national integrity more than any other cultural tool. E-Government can take advantage of Urdu Informatics at large by having everything in Urdu accessible for masses. Hand held Urdu devices will help to cover the state operations to less literate areas where English isn’t known. Will add up to a strong localized electronic infrastructure equally accessible from all parts of the state. Automatic Machine Translation will assist the state to keep an eye on world opinions in their own language (Urdu) by continuously translating from various sources. Advantages to the Society may be reflected as: Urdu Computing platforms will attract masses to these platforms hence eliminating the “digital divide” in our society. Hand held Urdu devices will transform our society into a more interconnected society having uncountable benefits. Automatic Machine Translation from English to Urdu will enable the masses to access the data that, before translation, is foreign to them. When it comes to Scientific Text, Automatic Machine Translation will help to translate science and technology literature from abroad into Urdu thus raising the overall intellect of the society. Electronic Urdu Database will help to standardize the language among masses thus boosting the research and refinement of the language which definitely has a positive impact on society. Advantages to the Economy after completion of such type of the projects may be visualized as under: Computers in Urdu will encourage less literate businessmen to track their business with digital devices. As a result of the previously mentioned consequence, enabling Urdu platforms will boost the local Software industry to produce Urdu Business Solutions. Small business will start to track their business with Urdu enabled devices which in turn will generate both, the business for software industry and revenue for the central government. Urdu platforms will force the Hi-Tech companies to release their products specifically aimed at Urdu consumer market. So why the Government of Pakistan in its Vision 2030 made some line to make Urdu a language of internet on March 2007. “True sustainability, however, will come when these languages create their synergies with global modern movements and ideas, especially the Internet.” Urdu is and must remain the first language of Pakistan. It is and must remain the language of our culture and of our day-to-day communication. It is and must remain the first. The story starts since 1998 when National Identity Cards were proposed to be developed in Urdu but there was lack of the standardization in Urdu Applications and Softwares. An effort was viewed in a seminar at FAST (NU) Lahore in October 1998 and a resultant Urdu Informatics department started in the National Language Authority, Cabinet Division Islamabad to coop with the running issues of standards. The Government of Pakistan decided in its cabinet meeting on August 23, 2000 that the development of standards for the use of Urdu for Computer Applications shall continue the responsibility of the Cabinet Division." And after developing so many standards and changing the computer screen into Urdu, the Prime Minister of Pakistan issued directive, reviewing it on 11-02-2006 as: "The promotion of Urdu language by making it a computer language be put on fast track." What were these efforts; let us have a glance of its history. 1st Gazette Notification of Urdu Typewriter's Keyboard was made in 1980. It published in the Gazette of Pakistan. Extra, December 6, 1980 (Pak.III) that: The public sector companies concerned may undertake the manufacture of Typewriter and Teleprinters with the standardized key boards only. This keyboard also got a place on Urdu word processing but was not efficient for computing needs. A Keyboard Ver.1.00 was developed on 14th December 1999 by the Urdu Informatics Department of National Language Authority, Cabinet Division, by its standard committee. This department also developed ASCII Code plate for the use of Urdu in computers. In July 2007 the Chief Executive of Pakistan General Pervaiz Musharaf gave his approval as a standard for this standard ASCII code plate. Then this was revised and the code plate Ver.2 was developed by the standardization committee of NLA. The main feature of this version was ghost character set along with dots to process all the Pakistani Languages. The newly developed keyboard was also made to process this. A consensus of Pakistani Language Boards was also taken in November 2000. This keyboard was adopted by NADRA in Pakistan and by Microsoft in Windows XP: English and Urdu versions. Now all other companies are also adopting this keyboard. The National Language Authority of Pakistan is also grateful to Microsoft for its great initiative to collaborate in the development of the Urdu Language for use in Informatics through its Local Language Program. The National Language Authority, in collaboration with Microsoft, is working to bring Computer Technology to Urdu. Providing the interface in Urdu will boost IT development activities in Pakistan, as well as in India and other SAARC countries. This initiative will potentially enable computer access in every street and village of Pakistan and South Asia. Teaching of Urdu will be facilitated and education in school can now be enhanced with the help of computers, because 92 percent of the population of Pakistan does not speak English. In addition, the software development industry will gain a new field of business activities using Office and Windows in Urdu, and we expect that the LLP will also benefit Urdu informatics research activities in Pakistan’s universities.” This message is also released and available on the website of Microsoft as a Press Release of March 16, 2004 The President of Pakistan also allowed National Language Authority to become full member of International code for language processing named as UNICODE. Some changes are adopted by UNICODE in its Ver. 4.0 from the ASCII code plate version 2 of NLA. The ghost character set was also recognized and adopted by UNICODE. There are some more proposals sent by CEUI to UNICODE to develop standards for Urdu and Pakistani languages. A set of ghost characters and dots/ nuqtas makes easy to formulate any character of any language written in Arabic script. The technical committee of UNICODE has accepted this proposal and in its last meeting on October 13, 2007, they were of the opinion that alternate nuqta proposal to add spacing characters he developed. Korean and other CJK languages following this proposal made their contributions. ISO-Open Office Standards also brought for Urdu. Standards in its ECMA-376 for Office Open XML file formats. Two meetings of its sub-committees have been conducted. Why this is to be done. A basic rationale is revealed through a research paper of UNICODE developed by Mr. Mark Davis as in GDP by language on January 22, 2003. He writes: "Many people in the software industry don't realize how important it is to localize products for different languages around the world. While English is a major language, it only accounts for around 30% of the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is likely to account for less in the future. Neglecting other languages means ignoring quite significant potential markets. The most notable feature is the steady rise of Chinese and slow relative decline of Japanese and most European languages. Korean and Indic languages also show growth over that period, though slower than Chinese." .................................... The article divided into two parts because of limited characters submission here at Mehfil Forum ..................................... *Project Director, Centre of Excellence for Urdu Informatics (CEUI), National Language Authority, Cabinet Division, Islamabad.