Page 11 of 13MEDIA AND CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
User motivation to access content and services is the key to the survival of infrastructure or the adoption of a technology platform. Whereas in the past it may have been adequate to build infrastructure or promote last-mile technology solutions, policymakers increasingly recognize that issues such as software localization and production of digital content are critical to the development of sustainable demand for ICTs.
There are two prominent drivers of these processes. As more governments go online in line with their e-government policy, there is an increasing demand from the citizens to get content and related services in their local language. Users also have an increasing appetite for digital content and this has fuelled the growth of the three main online content markets: music, videos, and games.
In the 2003-2004 Digital Review of Asia Pacific, challenges in content development were identified in terms of tools, standards, human capacity, financial models, political culture, and legal frameworks. Although many of these challenges still exist, there have been many developments in the availability of some technical standards (such as Unicode) for many Asian languages and in the action plans of governments to include development or access to content as part of their policy framework. The PAN Localization Project, for example, has made considerable progress in developing the LINUX operating system in Nepali (Nepal) and in Dzongkha (Bhutan); optical character recognition and text-to-speech software in Sinhala (Sri Lanka), Bangla (Bangladesh) and Lao (Lao People's Democratice Republic); and a wide range of supporting applications and utilities, such as lexicons and fonts, in languages such as Khmer in Cambodia, Pashto in Afghanistan, Tamil in Sri Lanka, and Urdu in Pakistan. The project is also supporting more localization standards/tools that are being developed in Mongolian (Mongolia), Tibetan (China), and Urdu (Pakistan). In many countries such as the Republic of Korea and Vietnam, the localization process is led by different private companies that enjoy support from the government. The Vietnamese language has been standardized to Unicode UTF 8 by the Vietkey Group in Vietnam. Some other native languages of Vietnam, like Thai, Cham, Jarai, Bah"nar, Êê, M"nông, Sê ng, and K"hor are also in the process of Unicode standardization.
In many cases, government initiatives are important in spurring localization, particularly for minority language groups that may not yet constitute a sizeable market for ICT products. The Indian government has set up the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) that has developed a localization framework for different Web applications, desktop-based applications, localized browser solutions, and the like. The Australian government has put policy emphasis on getting some endangered indigenous languages online as part of its digital content policy. The Afghan Computer Science Association has converted Microsoft Windows XP and Office 2003 into the Pashto language. And the Cambodian National Committee for the Standardization of Khmer Script in Computers (NCSKSC) has been instrumental in sensitizing the need for localization, introducing Khmer scripts in different government offices and offering ICT training programs in the Khmer language.
In Sri Lanka, all government websites are required to be multilingual (in Sinhala, Tamil, and English) and to use Unicode fonts. The Bangladesh government is working to enact the Right to Information Act that would enable more government information to be easily available on demand. India passed a Right to Information Act in May 2005. In Pakistan, an ordinance was promulgated in June 2002 ensuring people's access to information. All these would mean that content services from the government side would be a focal point of citizen's demand in the coming years.
Localization is often pioneered by local volunteers and self-help groups in distributed networks, often without a formal organizational structure. The Bangladesh Open Source Network is an informal network that has not only developed a Bengali interface or version of different applications (such as Ubuntu Linux, Mozilla Firefox) in the local language, but also promoted localization through training camps in different institutions and by facilitating Bengali content development at Wikipedia. As of January 2008, Bengali Wikipedia has over 16,000 entries, one of the highest in the non-English language versions of Wikipedia. Sinhala Unicode Communities is a volunteer network in Sri Lanka that has been involved in promoting the use of Unicode in Sinhala and was supported by several freelance bloggers who organized themselves into community journalism forums to promote local content.
As the cost of access is reduced, we see an increased number of users producing and distributing content through blogs or short/multimedia message service (SMS/MMS) to connect and empower people through campaigns and action. In countries where the press enjoys little freedom, posting and reading content anonymously on the Internet have become an important source of media coverage. In Iran the number of Persian blogs run by Iranians is estimated to be around 800,000 this year, a 30 percent increase since the last year. In China, the population of bloggers is growing rapidly.
Digital content makes for a booming music, video, games, and animation industry. A recent report of In-Stat's Consumer Media and Content Service found that by 2011 in the Asia Pacific region online music revenues will reach USD 1.4 billion, video revenues will reach USD 2.7 billion, and the game industry will exceed USD 9.5 billion (Potter 2007). The question is how much of this revenue will remain in the economies in question and how much will travel to rights-holders outside the locality of sale. The importance of viable locally-owned content markets is reflected in the increasing emphasis on the creative industries in economic development strategies.