I am finally back after a week of traveling (a very very hectic week of travel). As I have been mentioning in my previous posts, Nokia Research Center has been conducting an all India design competition called Bhasha 2011. Last week was the final submission for this competition.

Bhasha is a hindi word that literally translates to ‘Language’. Evidently this is the main/core theme for this competition. Inviting leading design institutions from India, participants from these colleges are asked to design mobile applications or services that would encourage the use of local language amongst people.

The institutions participating are

1. IIT Kanpur- Located in Kanpur

2. Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology- Located in Bangalore

3. NID- National Institute of Design- Located in Ahemdabad

4. SID- Symbiosis Institute of Design- Located in Pune

The outcomes of this competition will be solutions and concepts that can be executed in the ‘real world’. The reason for this is that literacy in local languages in India is on a downward path, which makes it an important area to introduce solutions for. People speak their vernacular language but, seldom read or write in it. This is unfortunately true for most of the social demographic profiles. For example: A person belonging to a higher income , more privileged section of the society studies his/her local language till high school. After that college education is mostly in English. The local language is hence mostly spoken but not written. After college, English becomes the key language at work and to perform work related tasks. There is hence NO need to write or read in one’s mother tongue/local language.

Now consider someone from a lower income bracket- an auto rickshaw driver for instance. He is barely educated. He can read and communicate in his local language but, his profession does not require him to write in his mother tongue. As a result he is educated out of it.

This was also a challenge faced by us researching for ‘Akshar’. We had very limited access to people who were competent in their vernacular language.

The participants of Bhasha 2011 hence carry a very important responsibility as designers to create services or applications on mobile phones that would help people (for example: an auto rickshaw driver or an IT professional) to use his mother tongue more regularly, learn and re-connect with it.

Students at the presentations at IIT Kanpur and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology (Bangalore)

The ideas proposed by all the participants have been rather interesting up till now. Some very real problems faced by these students in terms of being dis-connected with their own mother tongue have been addresses. Empathy is always a good way to start thinking about design solutions.Our team at Nokia Research Center (Younhee Jung, Dhaval Joshi and myself) have spent the last three months mentoring the students through their ideas.

The list of semi-finalists for Bhasha2011 will be released soon and the final winners will be announced in July at an event held in Bangalore. All ideas will be made public at the end of the competition, so anyone who is interested will have the opportunity to know more about the outcomes. I too will keep you updated on its progress.



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