Monday, August 16, 2010

At last, an Indian vernacular language translation tool

This is what I have been waiting for. A tool, a software that can translate (not transliterate) English into Indian languages and vice-versa. Kudos to IIIT Hyderabad and the IITs who have collaborated, to have come up with such a tool - Indian Language Machine Translation System. Google, for example, offers to translate into English a webpage into several languages, once you get the search results. If you try this for Indian languages, all you normally get it gibberish.This is exactly what India needs to stay ahead in the global village.

I recall that a few years back, an OCR tool for Hindi and other Indian languages was developed in Kolkata, if I am right. I hope that that software too is perfected, which will allow users to scan printed vernacular documents and convert them to editable text files.

The Indian Language Machine Tranaslation System is an application, a software to be installed on a computer. You will just have to copy-paste the content from one language in one window and click a button. The translated version, along with the web pages and images will be visible in another window.

This is amazing stuff. My heartiest congratulations to all the developers.

Here is the link from where I got the news: - It's in Marathi

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Media Economics

Recently, I came across a book on Media Economics. I was, and still am fascinated by the subject and have decided to include it in our curriculum. Though change in the syllabus will take some time, I have already started discussing the subject in the classroom. Most of the posts on this blog will deal with the subject of Media Economics for some time.

Here are some facts and figures:  

Media & Entertainment, 6th June 2009

  • Indian media and entertainment industry expected to clock a growth of about 19% by 2010 compared with a growth of 17% in year 2008.
  • The turnover of India's Media and Entertainment sector expected to double to about $20 billion (Rs.100,000 crore) by 2011-12.
  • Total turnover of the sector estimated at about $10 billion (Rs.50,000 crore) in 2008-09.
  • The turnover (including both subscription and advertising revenue) of the television segment expected to reach at $10.4 billion (Rs.52,000 crore) in the next three years from the current level of about $4 billion (Rs.20,000 crore).
  • Currently, advertising contributes about 80% and subscription the remaining 20% of the revenue of television segment

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Crowd Power

What do YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have in common? Crowds. That applies to all blogs and all online social media websites. If these websites don't have crowds with them, they will have to be shut down.

This is the age of crowdsourcing and crowd computing. For the time being let's not talk of TV channels, which are anyway facing problems in generating content. But the newly arriving 3G telephony is where we need to concentrate on. If 3G services are to be successful, all service providers will have to create or buy compelling content to keep their viewers hooked.

The service providers cannot be content (pun intended) and dependent on revenues generated by users browsing the internet or making phone calls. It is video that will play the most important role and it will not be surprising if 3G service providers turn to the crowds to generate their content.

The videos will have to be short, relevant and compelling, because longer videos will involve more data transfer and hence, more cost. One minute videos, one minute episodes of soap operas are bound to become popular.

No service provider would be willing to employ a large team of content producers to produce a variety of content. One, because it will involve huge costs, and two, because that would not be their core area of expertise. The best source will be crowds.

And that, in India, we have; in plenty.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How effective are New Media campaigns?

Very briefly, the CNN Effect emphasizes on the effect of media on government policy decisions. There have been instances where wide coverage given by the media has partially had an effect on policy. However, the CNN Effect concept has generated a lot of debates and controversies.

However, it needs to be seen how effective are the new media - blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. in having an impact on government policy. The Clinton - Lewinsky story was first broken in a blog and picked up by the media. However, the scaandal, if one may call it had little impact on Clinton's career. Back home, Shashi Tharoor's tweets led to his downfall, at least for the time being. The 'Pink Chaddi Campaign' was an equally sensationalist and radical campaign against a sensationalist and radical Muthalik. But what about real issues? What kind of issues are discussed on these new media and how many read them? Recently I got a lot of requests asking me to join the 'Save the Tiger' campaign. How many joined it? Did it have any impact at all on the government's policy on the Tiger Project and wildlife conservation in general? 

What about the education system? How many Facebook campaigns or blogs talk about the knee jerk decisions taken by the Maharashtra Education Minister on 10th and 12th standard results, admissions, percentile, 'Best of 5' etc.? How many people have responded to the call given by Ashotosh Bhatia about the duplicate frequency allocation to another radio station in Khar? Even though Sanjay Ranade and I have spoken to several media professionals, none of them have taken it up as a story.

What then is the effectiveness of the new media in shaping policy decisions? Are the heard by the people who matter? Or are they a marginal minority? Do the new media forums only take up frivolous issues and discuss them threadbare in the virtual world and then does the topic remain in the virtual world? Does anyone really care? 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

IPL is live on YouTube! I really don't NEED the TV anymore!

This was a comment I made on Buzz, Facebook and Twitter. And I stand by it. The future is here and we are still living in the past.

For the past 3 months, because I wanted my son to concentrate on his studies for his 10th standard examinations, my TataSky set top box was bundled back into its carton and kept out of his reach. Some of my friends and colleagues thought I was being cruel and authoritarian, but I am sure all the fathers will agree, that sometimes one has to be.

I only hope that his brain has not already got fuddled by the crap that is dished out on the idiot box. I am sure that he is sensible enough and will not restart his day long vigil in front of the television once his exams are over on Wednesday.

Coming back to my statement, we are living in the past. No one can deny the power of television and its vivid, real-time imagery. The images evoke emotions, bring laughter and enjoyment to our households. They keep us engrossed for hours. But the power is quickly fading away in presence of the Internet.

On internet too, I can have realtime images, possibly more realtime than the television. At the same time, with the click of my mouse button, I can search for more sources for information, images and videos. With broadband internet connectivity, I no longer have to wait for long for the video to buffer and play. Today, the IPL match took exactly 5 seconds to buffer and start playing on my computer. Even CNN considers Facebook to be it's competitor. Here's a link for some fodder for your thoughts:

CNN Sees Facebook As Major Competitor

Though there are some teething problems, 3G services are already here and in the future, we could be watching the IPL matches while traveling to work(and maybe during office hours too! Wink!!), watching movies, browsing the Internet, using Facebooks and MySpaces and Tweeting away to glory. One comment that I got on my Gmail Buzz was that my students would be worried by my statement, as many of them would be dreaming to enter the television media for jobs. I say that they SHOULD be worried.

All media professionals will have to learn to multi-task to survive in the industry of the future. If there is no job security now, there will be less in the future, unless you are able to multi-task, producing content for every electronic medium. Convergence has given birth to divergence where the public is spoilt for choice for news. It is not surprising to see that one watches news on television at night, switches on the PC and hunts for more information and follows it up in the next day's newspaper and again on the radio. We have divergent media to turn to for information and news.

Moreover how long can the public be fooled by 'BREAKING NEWS'? How come ALL channels have the same 'Breaking News'? And how do most of them have the SAME set of video footage? It won't be long before the media organisations wake up and start sending a single reporter to cover an event instead of sending one reporter or team from ALL their channels/newspapers to cover the same event. Instead, the remaining could be sent to cover more stories, giving us diverse 'Breaking News' stories. It won't be long before we will see the emergence of REALLY convergent newsrooms. And that's where we are readying our Department.

The future belongs to the Internet and the mobile phone.

My colleagues and I are striving very hard to modernise our computer lab before the next semester starts and to embark on an ambitious project where all our students will be ready for the future, developing content for the Internet and the 3G service providers, to cater to the news and information hungry public. At least from our Department, the industry will get multi-tasking professionals.

The future is here. Let's start living in it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Language of the Government

The Language of the Government

In my earlier study I had emphasized the need for the importance of vernacular language in websites of political parties. In the study, it was clear that many political parties in India have not realized the importance of creating content in Indian languages for their websites. They are missing the convergence bus. Today, there are 48 million Internet users in India and the figures are rising every year. The literacy rate in India stands at about 66%. Out of this literate population, 83% of rural literates are not conversent with English. If we are talking of growing literacy along with growing Internet users, it can be argued that the number of Internet users who do not understand English will keep on growing. This new literate internet users will understand and like to read/browse through online content in their own language.

This was my premise for conducting another study, this time of the websites of State Governments in India. As in the previous study, this study too proved to be fascinating and the results were again quite surprising. The political parties are not bound by any rules as to how their website should be and what content they should put up on their website. However, while reading through literature on such studies, I came across a document (and a website) published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. This document has clearly stated the guidelines under which all government websites should be designed. (Click here for the website)

These guidelines have been laid down for all government and semi-government bodies, including the State Governments, Municipalities, Panchayats, etc. Once I found this document, I decided to use them to test the website designs and content of the State Governments. Though this was not an exhaustive study which I am still doing, one thing that clearly stood out was that even though there are guidelines, they are not followed in toto.

Again, many State Government websites did not have their content in a vernacular language. How can the Indian government dream of e-governance when the content is not availble in a language that the neo-literate Internet user understands? Clearly, the political parties in India and Governments which are again formed by these political parties have not woken up to the fact that there is a rapidly growing population of Internet users and they need to be catered to in form of Indian language content.

Just like the media revolution in the last decade, if there is going to be another media revolution, it's going to be vernacular internet medium.