1. The UNL international conference at Goa from Nov 25-29 was organized by the UNDL foundation of Switzerland, TRANSCULTURA of Brazil and IIT Bombay, India. The overall theme for development of a Universal Networking Language(UNL) is "building universal knowledge" to facilitate a dialogue for reciprocal knowledge and transcultural understanding among civilizations for building peace, development and welfare for all nations. The central theme is removal of "Language barrier, promotion of peace and harmony among nations through communication and globalization trend of information media". The UNDL foundation has proposed that the first step towards "universalizing" could be to build a bridge between "local knowledge" and "universal knowledge". The UNDL propounds the theory that universalization could be achieved while keeping intact the local concept and context of a community while translating their language into other languages. The tensions generated in social, economic, political and cultural environments for universalization necessitates reciprocal knowledge and transcultural understanding among nations. The search for a universal understanding of multi-diverse manifestations of knowledge and culture from philosophical and anthropological perspectives gives us a reason for approaching language from an engineering point of view.
2. The conference at Goa focused on reflecting on the interdependence of knowledge, culture and language, using philosophical, social and engineering approaches. And to learn and discuss UNL as a multilingual infrastructure, enabling communication and knowledge sharing among people of different languages and cultures. Researchers, eminent scholars, professors, writers, the UNL Society members, and several other delegates from Japan, China, Indonesia, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Russia, Iran and India attended the Conference.
3. The conference was divided into two symposiums 'Transculture' and 'Language processing'. The first part covered philosophical and anthropological aspects of knowledge, for "Universal knowledge and Dialogue" among cultures and languages. Fifteen eminent scholars from various disciplines like philosophy of language, linguistics and culture from China and India were invited to present papers. The main contribution was the exploration of the idea of an "Encyclopedia of Keywords".
The second part covered topics on Knowledge and Language from the Engineering, Computer Sciences and Linguistics angles for development of a multilingual platform and for Webbing Universal Knowledge. Four research tracks on UNL application tools; Machine translation and lexical resources, information retrieval and speech and visual information processing were organized under the symposium. In addition to 21 refereed papers on linguistic and software engineering aspects for developing UNL 6 invited speakers from major speech and language processing groups from India and other participating countries presented papers on topics such as Speech Technology, Building infrastructure for Machine Translation, e-Learning and Distance Education - the Indian perspective, Strategies for mutual knowledge between India and Europe, Anthropological examples of feedback and reciprocal vision of key cultural images, etc. A special session was dedicated to the Konkani Language, the language of the people of Goa.
4. Shri Rajeev Ratna Shah, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Government of India and the Governor of Goa spoke in special sessions. Dr. Hiroshi Uchida, Meiying Zhu and Ronaldo Martins presented the various aspects of the UNL System in a special session.
5. In his inaugural speech "Knowledge Management & Linguistic Pluralism" Shri Rajeev Ratna Shah, Secretary DIT, called the attention of scientists, technologists, engineers and linguists on the IT indicators and the Linguistic scenario of the world and stated that there is an urgent need to arrest the erosion of knowledge caused by low representation of different languages and therefore cultures of the world in the digital world. He stated that National excellence in the millennium shall be determined by the extent to which the Information Technology can deliver its potential in Local Languages which implies appropriate representation of at least 18 of our constitutional languages with 10 scripts and over 1650 dialects in the digital world. Referring to Mikami's data on Internet usage he underlined the sprawling digital divide existing in the world. He said that based on the population statistics Hindi and more than two Indian languages would be the most spoken languages by 2050. He called for the greater contribution from scientists/technologists and Linguists for innovations in ICT for reducing the knowledge gap across different linguistic groups encompassing over 95% of India's population that is not English-literate. He informed the delegates that the government has taken several i nitiatives in this regard with a focus on developing Creative Technologies in the context of convergence of computing, communication and content technologies. Collaborative technology development has been encouraged to realize Optical Character Recognition(OCR) software for Indian Languages with more than 95% character level accuracy for Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada. The same would soon be available for Assamese, Bangla, Malayalam and Oriya. Online machine translation from English to Hindi - Aanglahindi has been developed and made available at IIT Kanpur websites. Government spending during 1991- 2002 was about US$ 4 Million. (Ref. PPTs of Shri Shah's talk).
6. Dr Om Vikas, Sr. Director and Head, Technology Development for Indian Languages, Deptt. of Information Technology in his presentation stated that whereas Information Technology is progressing from content & information navigation to concept navigation it is not only the language barrier but also the low affordability of IT consumers in several parts of the world which is a cause for the sprawling digital divide. He stated that world over attempts towards IT localization are aimed towards interface development, translation and transliteration for local consumers which inadequately supports local concepts and contexts. It is in this regard that innovations are most needed. Referring to the UNESCO report he stated that where India ranks among the first few countries that harness IT most for economic development digital divide is also highest in India. He informed the delegates about the various initiatives of the government for Technology Development in Indian Languages (presentation enclosed for reference at Annexure 'B'). In addition to Optical Character Recognition and Machine Aided Translation Systems development the other initiatives include development of Parallel Corpora, Multilingual Libraries/Dictionaries, lexical resources, Portals, Text-to-Speech System, Standardization of ISCII, Unicode, XML, INSFOC, etc. he also informed the delegates that the Govt. of India had also set up a consortium of Indian and MNC companies for interaction between Government, Academia and Industry in the language technology domain for integrated management of the Language Technology. He stated that the long-term goals being pursued are Speech-to-Speech translation and Human Inspiring Systems.
7. The Conference addressed the questions on knowledge and language from the technical aspects of treating multilingual information, data and knowledge representation. And in particular examined actual experiences in using computer technologies for producing, storing managing and accessing cultural knowledge and contents, and make them available in many languages simultaneously. It will, in particular, provide opportunities for testing and learning how the UNL can achieve a transcultural approach to a number of key words, concepts and images, such as heart, face, life, or, at a more scientific level, zero? How can their specific and unique meaning in the original language also be expressed in their universal meaning? The conference provided an opportunity for reflecting on the interdependence of language, knowledge and culture from the philosophical to the engineering perspectives. It is also intended to be another opportunity for learning and discussing specific issues concerning UNL multilingual infrastructure and related linguistic or technological issues. To facilitate an integrated approach to these diverse subjects, the Program is organized under the broad and provocative theme "Universal Knowledge and Language" and will be focused from four interrelated perspectives: Philosophical, Cultural, Linguistic and Engineering. Within this broad framework, the Conference invites papers and discussions on a variety of topics, including the very concept of "Universal Knowledge".
8. In the special session on specific features of the UNL the quest for reciprocal knowledge and the engineering perspective of Language were discussed. Issues such as finding the systems and measure for representation of semantic and logical aspects of language(s) and culture(s); methodologies? What would be the tools for exercising this measure? How far is the principle of a universal knowledge compatible with the diversity of knowledge patterns? What are the possible and different methodological uses of reciprocal knowledge, and reciprocal anthropology, considered as a heuristic and epistemological methodology, to face the dilemma of universality and diversity, from the point of view of culture and from the point of view of science? Can a universal computer writing system assume both functions (first of all, to represent the universal understanding i.e., what is commonly understood, in terms of universal logic, and secondly, to record what is exclusively specific to the different cultural knowledge patterns)? How far UNL can be appropriate and relevant to accomplish this function? The ways computer deal with languages, information, data and knowledge. Computers can process objective data and factual information without difficulty but can they process subjective information just as easily?
9. The Salient outcomes of the interaction(s) of delegates from Dept. of IT with the other delegates of the Conference are two probable international collaboration/cooperation opportunities.
INDO EUROPEAN cooperation in the area of Language Technology". Dr. Om Vikas, SD, DIT and Mr Jesus Cardenosa Lera, Director, Centre de Lengua Espanola, Madrid, Spain identified the possible areas of collaboration as:
1) E-Content development (Development of Spanish to Hindi Dictionary as the first phase
2) Localization of Language Tools
3) Speech-to-Speech translation
"International Co-operation for Multi-Lingual Open Source Software". Dr. Om Vikas, SD, DIT and nineteen other delegates had discussions. The salient points of the discussion were as follows:
1) Constitution of a joint working group of researchers in academia and industry under international co-operation to regularly meet and monitor the progress.
2) Identification of reusable Open Source Software components for multi-lingual computing.
3) Translation tools and other localization tool development
4) Exchange of experts
5) India to lead the creation of repository of multi-lingual software component.
Mr. Bimal Sareen, CEO Media Lab Asia keynote.