Bridging the Digital Divide in Sri Lanka: Some Challenges and Opportunities

S T Nandasara

Abstract


The "digital divide" is the gap in technology usage and access. The digital divide has been investigated by scholars and policy makers 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 they used on their own. The "digital divide" is the wide division between those who have access to Information and Communication Technologies and are using it effectively, and those who do not.
Sinhala writing system used in Sri Lanka is a syllabic writing system deriving from Brahmi and consisted of vowels, consonants, diacritical marks and special symbols. Several of these are combined to form complex ligatures. Total number of different glyphs is almost close to 2300. Thus, all computer equipment for Sinhala language needs to provide for this degree of complexity in both display and printing but without adding any extra complexity 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 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 shows how small communities of non-Roman script users can connect itself to the Romanized system dominated cyberspace.

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