the beginning

“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”, they say. But the beginnings of big ideas probably do not involve passionate discussions or intellectual arguments. They often pop up from nowhere in the middle of normal day to day coffee conversations. I believe Kannada Pustaka was no different! If I remember right, last year, one fine day at the Indian institute of Science , Rakesh and I were chatting over coffee about nothing in particular.

That is when Rakesh mentioned that he had recently visited a school for visually challenged in his hometown and found their resources largely lacking. As chance would have it, I had a very good friend who was at that time working with Professor A.G.R in the optical character recognition lab at IISc and I casually put Rakesh in touch with her. And I virtually disappeared from the picture. Today, after a year, when I see the extent of progress Rakesh and his dedicated hardworking team have made to make Kannadapustaka a reality, it feels amazing.

While their journey has been inspiring so far, I believe three important advances have to be made. Firstly, the word about this noble initiative should reach more eyes and ears so that hundreds and thousands of volunteers will join hands to make this scalable. Secondly, this project is an example of how basic and fundamental research can make a huge difference and help touch lives. OCR technology for local Indian languages is not fool-proof today (which is why there is a need for volunteers). Being someone who knows the inner workings of this technology, I believe there is much progress can be made at a fundamental level using advanced statistical machine learning techniques and algorithms. Researchers working in this field should get inspired by these applications to make these methods much better and possibly brainstorm on how they can use technology to create change. Towards this, this initiative should also reach the eyes and ears of scientists all over the country who work in relevant areas. Thirdly and importantly, this must grow into a country-wide initiative. Kannadapustaka should soon become Bharathapustaka and that can only happen if noble souls like you join hands in this initiative. Rakesh and his team have sown the seed. Will you and I water this sprout to see it grow into a big strong tree? I think it is high time we did! Congratulations Rakesh for this initiative and thanks for the inspiration!

Vedarun Rajkumar

Vedarun is a computer scientist and an aspiring writer and has been supporting our initiative