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Bridging the digital divide in Sri Lanka: some challenges and opportunities in using Sinhala in ICT

Authors:

S. T. Nandasara ,

University of Colombo School of Computing, LK
About S. T.

No. 35, Reid Avenue, Colombo

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Yoshiki Mikami

Nagaoka University of Technology, JP
About Yoshiki

Language Observatory, Nagaoka University of Technology, Nagaoka, Niigata, 940-2188, Japan

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Abstract

The "digital divide" is the gap in technology usage and access. The digital divide has been investigated by scholars [1] and policy makers [2] mainly as an economy-specific issue that permeates the population across all demographic profiles, such as income, gender, age, education, race, and region, but not specific to the languages of different communities. The lack of native language driven ICT is a major conducive factor in digital divide.

Sinhala writing system used in Sri Lanka is a syllabic writing system derived from Brahmi which consist of vowels, consonants, diacritical marks and special symbols constructs. Several of these constructs are combined to form complex ligatures. The total number of different glyphs is almost close to 2300 in Sinhala language. Thus, all computer equipments that support Sinhala language needs to support a greater degree of complexity in both display and printing with near minimal changes to the keyboard or the input systems. In this paper we discuss (1) historical background of the Sinhala writing system, (2) Sinhala scripts’ characteristics and complexities and illustrate (3) how Sinhala computing technology has evolved over the last quarter century. Major steps are marked by the design of character code standards as a corner stone of whole architecture for text processing. A case described in this article of “Digital Inclusion” shows how small communities of non-Roman script users can connect to the Romanized system dominated cyberspace.

How to Cite: Nandasara, S.T. & Mikami, Y., (2016). Bridging the digital divide in Sri Lanka: some challenges and opportunities in using Sinhala in ICT. International Journal on Advances in ICT for Emerging Regions (ICTer). 8(1), pp.1–13. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/icter.v8i1.7162
Published on 30 Mar 2016.
Peer Reviewed

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