Centre for Internet & Society

A survey conducted by the Odia Wikipedia community and the Centre for Internet and Society reveals that the online presence of Odia language is gradually increasing.

The article by Anwesha Ambaly was published in the Telegraph on April 7, 2016. Subhashish Panigrahi was quoted.

The survey, conducted last month, found nearly 61 per cent online users active on social media to be using the universal web-compatible Unicode font for Odia. Using the Unicode ensures it is searchable, sharable and reusable on the Internet, thus making its presence bigger.

"The survey results show that more people are typing in the native script. And the use is increasing at a fast pace," said Subhashish Panigrahi, the programme officer at the Centre for Internet and Society, adding that there had been a 20 per cent rise in the number of Unicode users for Odia over the past two years.

Most people share quotes, personal opinions and news on social media in Unicode. In the first phase, the survey was conducted among 500 active social media users. More such surveys will be conducted within six months. The survey was conducted on Facebook, Twitter and some other popular social networking sites.

The survey results are particularly significant since the two other fonts used for writing Odia in the computer - Akruti and Sreelipi - are not compatible for use on the Internet.

"Based on these survey responses, we will customise several projects so that more people join in this free and collaborative knowledge sharing movement," said Mrutyunjaya Kar, an administrator of the Odia Wikipedia Community.

The Unicode font for Odia was introduced in 1991. Earlier, many people were not even aware of its existence in their personal and office computers. Unicode-compliant fonts now come preloaded in all computers across Linux, Windows and Mac operating systems. And many mobile companies also have Unicode fonts installed, especially in systems such as Android 5.0 and later versions."

Medical student Nasim Ali said: "Apple iOS devices have Odia support to the display level where one needs to download apps to type in Odia."

The survey also mentions that around 30.4 per cent use the Latin script to write Odia.

However, while explaining why there was not much Odia content on the Internet, Kar said: "There is no government initiative to promote Unicode in Odia. There is a need for more initiative to implement Unicode at all levels, such as government websites, web versions of school textbooks, government circulars and other publications."

"We have written several letters to the state government requesting them to start using Unicode while uploading documents in government websites. But, there has been no response or action from the government's side," Kar added.

Culture secretary Manoranjan Panigrahi, however, said: "We are taking a lot of initiatives to promote Odia language at the international level. We are trying to make use of technology to make sure that its presence increase on the web platform."