Govt extends deadline for mobile phone local language support to February 1

The government has extended for a second time, the deadline for mobile phone makers to provide mandatory Indian language support in their devices to February 1 next year, due to the complexity involved in creating keyboards for some languages.

In a notification the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that “mobile handset manufacturers have raised concerns with regard to compliance to the Order,” and that the ministry was extending the date of compliance of the order from October 1 to February 1, 2018 to let manufacturers “address these issues and to facilitate the industry for smooth implementation of the Order”.

Moneycontrol had reported last week that the deadline was likely to be extended due to the complexity involved in creating keyboards for some languages.

MeitY additional secretary Ajay Kumar had told Moneycontrol at the time that because unused characters in some scripts increase the keyboard complexity, a restricted keyboard has been suggested to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) that will have to be approved by a working group.

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Last year, the BIS had issued a standard that required all mobile phones to have the ability to type in English, Hindi and at least one additional Indian official language. It also required that people should be able to read all 22 Indian official languages on their devices.

The government had earlier set the deadline for the order to come into effect as July 1 which was extended to October 1.

The script adopted by the manufacturers differs from BIS’ standards. The Indian Cellular Association had said last month that the industry was facing issues with standardisation of the Brahmi script.

The focus on Indian languages is the next frontier for the growth of mobile and internet penetration in India, where most of the urban and primarily English-speaking markets are now well versed with the use of the internet.

Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are also upping their game in India to provide local language support across their products and offerings.

Last week, in a video message, played at a Reliance Jio event announcing offers for the latest iPhones, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the new iPhones have a new keyboard for India which now supports 11 local languages. “The iPhone now takes dictation in Hindi,” he said in a video message.

Similarly, Google last month extended the capability of its Translate product to include translations in several more regional languages, as well as enabling conversation mode for local languages.

A report by industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India last year found that the English language still accounts for 56 percent of the content on the worldwide Web, while Indian languages account for less than 0.1 percent.