Friday, April 25, 2014

Pakistani-American Foundation Releases 1700 Khan Academy Urdu Tutorials

Guest Post by Ali H. Cemendtaur

Koshish Foundation, a Silicon-Valley based non-profit corporation (Chairman, Suhail Akbar) with a strong presence in Pakistan where it works on education-related projects, has announced the completion of over 1700 math and basic science videos that are Urdu translations of the Khan Academy tutorials. These math and basic science videos can enable students learn Grade 3 to Grade 12 level math, chemistry, physics, and biology in Urdu.

Funding for the video translation work was provided by renowned Pakistani-American technologist and philanthropist Safi Qureshey, with Bilal Musharraf, Khan Academy’s Dean of Translations, acting as the liaison between Safi Qureshey and the Koshish Foundation. Safi Qureshey rose to fame in 1992 when AST, a computer company in California he co-founded with two partners, entered the list of Fortune 500 companies. Qureshey was the first Pakistani to walk the path of entrepreneurship in computer technology in the US, and he was the pride of his country of birth. Pakistanis in general and Karachiites in particular took Qureshey’s international success with teary-eyed pride.
Source: AppAppeal as of April 10, 2014. Note: Youtube is blocked in Pakistan

This scribe remembers seeing billboards with Safi Qureshey’s picture along Shahrah-e-Faisal in Karachi. Qureshey has definitely been an inspiration in one way or another for today’s large pool of Pakistani Americans starting up their own businesses, putting hard work in them, and taking them to success. Safi Qureshey realizes the importance of education and has been helping out people and institutions focusing on primary education in Pakistan. Muhammad Mahboob Akhter, a long term associate of Safi Qureshey, helps Qureshey in identifying and supporting education causes. In 2000-2001 Safi Qureshey provided funds for educational TV program ‘Khul Ja Sim Sim’ (popular US "Sesame Street" shows localized in Urdu for young TV viewers in Pakistan).

Koshish Foundation’s Urdu translation work of the Khan Academy videos—funded by Safi Qureshey--is being done by two top-notch translators in Karachi: Aleem Ahmed of the Global Science magazine and Zeeshan Hyder. Currently there is a ban on YouTube in Pakistan. Since the original Khan Academy videos and their Urdu translations are hosted at YouTube, very few students in Pakistan can access this educational resource. (A few Urdu videos are available on Dailymotion).  Even when access to YouTube is restored in Pakistan, a large number of students not connected to the Internet will not be able to reach these educational videos.

Koshish Foundation views a different way its work will be utilized in Pakistan. Koshish sees non-profit organizations and conscientious citizens downloading this material on their computers and using it to run their own schools with minimum operating expenses. All they need will be a classroom, a computer with downloaded videos on it, and a projector; a chaperone can oversee the students and the learning process. When better resources are available students can be given computers to do related practice exercises.

Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, the author of this post, is a Silicon Valley blogger and writer. Ali appears with me on the weekly Viewpoint From Overseas show recorded in Silicon Valley. Ali has been instrumental in Microsoft's support of Urdu fonts on Microsoft Word, and he is currently managing Urdu translations of videos at Khan Academy. Ali is a friend and a fellow NED University alumnus. 

Here's an example of Khan Academy Urdu video:

20-Solving equations and inequalities through... by khanacademyurdu
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Khan Academy Draws Pakistani Visitors

Silicon Valley NEDians Digitize Pak School Lessons 

Khan Academy Urdu Channel on Dailymotion

Khan Academy Urdu Channel on Youtube

HBO Comedy "Silicon Valley" Stars Pakistani-American

Burka Avenger: Pakistani Female Superhero 

Burka Avenger  Videos on Vimeo Channel

UN Malala Day

Pakistan's Cowardly Politicians

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Cemendtaur said...

Thanks, Mohtaram RH Sahib.
Appreciate your help in spreading the word out.

Mayraj said...

Needs to be translated in provincial languages as well.

Suhail Akbar said...

Riaz Sahib -- thank you for posting it.

Riaz Haq said...

Ali and Suhail:

You are welcome. Both of you are the unsung heroes among Pakistani-Americans. The work you are doing is greatly contributing to the uplift of fellow Pakistanis.

Riaz Haq said...

Based on Alexa traffic data, updated on 10 Apr 2014 at 01:24 GMT.

In spite of the fact that Youtube is blocked in Pakistan, 1.3% of the Khan users come from Pakistan and they generate 0.7% of the pageviews on Khan

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: Apple implemented the Urdu language keyboard across mobile devices in its iOS 8 update in mid-September. But persistence of a few Urdu speakers has now forced the IT giant to consider adopting the native typeface of Urdu language, Nastaleeq, along with the current Naskh font.
The Cupertino-based company had launched iOS 8 on September 17 in what was termed their biggest software update to date, boasting a whole host of features for those using modern Apple mobile devices. Hidden among those upgrades was the implementation of the Urdu keyboard across the system. This enables users of Apple’s popular iPhone, iTouch and iPad devices to type in Urdu while using texts, email, social media and other interaction. This functionality was previously available only through language-specific apps such as Urdu Writer.
The downside for some in this new feature, though, is that it follows the Naskh typeface derived from Arabic Unicode, rather than Nastaleeq. This prompted the creator of Urdu Writer, Mudassir Azeemi, to start a social media campaign. In writing a letter, emailing and tweeting to the CEO of Apple CEO, Tim Cook, Azeemi urged, explained, even pleaded about how easy it would be to implement the Nastaleeq typeface for the Urdu keyboard in iOS 8.
The effort paid part dividend when on October 13, Azeemi got a phone call from Cook’s representatives. Azeemi was initially fretting whether there are lawyers on the other end with a cease and desist notice over his campaign. Instead, the representative assured him that Apple will consider implementing the typeface.

The road thus far
Azeemi, a Pakistani who works out of San Francisco, says the roots of his campaign germinated well before his email to Cook on October 5, and subsequent snail-mail on October 8.
“When my daughter was growing up, I saw that she was learning alphabet through YouTube,” the app and user experience designer tells The Express Tribune. Hoping that his child could use technology to learn about her heritage and the Urdu language, Azeemi started work on building an app about Urdu.
“We started wondering if we can implement it on iOS. We then designed an entire keyboard for Urdu Writer in 2010.”
Urdu Writer met with great success as it allowed people to type in Urdu and share their writing through email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter. Most importantly, Urdu Writer allowed users to access the Nastaleeq font.
Why Nastaleeq?
Nastaleeq is a Perso-Arabic script. It is the preferred writing script for Persian Kashmiri and Punjabi – languages which contributed in the creation of Urdu.
“We asked around and a lot of people said that they could not read Naskh,” Azeemi says before explaining that readability of Urdu is better in Nastaleeq rather than in other members of the font family, including the widely implemented Naskh, or the lesser used Kufic font.
This was echoed by Ahsan Saeed, who divides time as an Urdu localization moderator for Twitter and his day job at a digital agency. “People used to tell me that Twitter should have the Nastaleeq font.”
Saeed says that his own mother, too used to the Nastaleeq font, can’t read Urdu posts on Facebook or Twitter because they are in the Naskh typeface, but can read Urdu newspapers in the Nastaleeq font online.

Riaz Haq said...

Soft-spoken education revolutionary Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created.
Khan is the founder, executive director, and faculty member at the Khan Academy, an online education provider.
Speaking at the Atlantic’s Navigate tech conference, Khan said that the online education providers and independent technology “boot camp” schools will end up playing an important role in pressuring legacy universities to change their outdated ways.
“I feel like society is ripe for challenging the model of school” he told The Atlantic’s editor, James Bennett, earlier this week.
“The credentialing piece is somewhat broken now,” Khan said. “A very small fraction of the population has the opportunity to attend a university that is broadly known.”
To that end, Khan said that he is working on a universal credentialing system that could compare a graduate of “Stanford or Harvard” by their raw abilities. Presumably, this credential would have to be some type of evaluation that would test and measure the abilities of all students, thereby making the granting institution irrelevant.
Last year, Sebastian Thrun, the CEO of online education provider Udacity, and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a tech industry credentialing system, the Open Education Alliance, with Khan Academy as partner.
Since then, Udacity has developed its own credential for the tech industry, the nanodegree. Similarly, Coursera, another online education provider, started awarding a “signature track” certificate to the graduates of some its tech courses.
Khan has not developed its own credential yet. Most important, neither Udacity nor Coursera has developed a degree or certificate that is comparable to a Stanford Degree. Both rely on the reputation of the granting organization — as opposed to some kind of test score. So, until Khan develops something more objective, a Stanford degree is still going to be a lot more valuable than anything else on the market.
Portfolios instead of transcript
At one point in the talk, a mother with children attending the University of California Berkeley expressed her frustration that her kids were having to turn to Khan Academy online videos to learn real world skills. She wondered how a $60,000 ultra-selective tier I degree could somehow not teach those skills.
Khan, who holds a Master’s in engineering from MIT, said that schools have dropped the ball on preparing graduates for the real world. Instead of graduating with a list of courses and a GPA, each student should have a portfolio of products.
“The transcript coming out of engineering school should essentially be the things that you’ve created,” he said.
Exams and grades are much (much) easier to administer to thousands of students. Having each student create some type of product (like a gadget or program) for graduation would require far more faculty time. There’s a lot of institutional inertia against doing anything that complicated.
Despite the fact that top tech companies like Google have publicly admitted that they don’t care very much about college degrees, colleges have not been moved to equip graduates with a portfolio of products for graduation. Khan suspects that online providers, like his Academy and others in the education space, will ultimately pressure colleges to change.
Here’s to hoping they do it soon.

Riaz Haq said...

#Urdu version of Whatsapp soon to be launched in #Pakistan

Whatsapp for androids has been fully translated into Urdu and will soon be launched in Pakistan.

This milestone is achieved by Ahsan Saeed who works as a Translation Administrator for WhatsApp, the Tech Juice reported.

Ahsan, along with his team of hardworking volunteers, translated 753 strings and moderated 2089 strings in less than three months.

With this achievement, Urdu has become the 18th language that Whatsapp has been officially translated to.

After the announcement of translation of all government websites into Urdu, the Urdu version of Whatsapp targets a wider local audience.

With the increased usage of 3G/4G mobile internet and smartphones, a huge chunk of population will be able to get the advantage of the messaging which failed to do so otherwise due to the language barrier.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan minister confirms the country is switching to #Urdu, dropping #English as official language via @TIMEWorld Pakistan is dropping English as its official language and switching to Urdu, a popular language in the Indian subcontinent.

The long-rumored change was confirmed by Pakistani Minister of Planning, National Reforms, and Development Ahsan Iqbal in an exclusive interview with TIME.

Iqbal said the change was being made because of a court directive. The Pakistani constitution, which was passed in 1973, included a clause specifying that the government must make Urdu the national language within 15 years, but it had not been enforced.

Still, Iqbal said the country is not entirely abandoning English, which will still be taught alongside Urdu in schools.

“It means Urdu will be a second medium of language and all official business will be bilingual,” he said.

Some Pakistanis fear that the move is part of an official backlash against the younger generation, which has been more open to Western culture.

But Iqbal argued that the move would help make Pakistan more democratic, since it will “help provide greater participation to people who don’t know English, hence making the government more inclusive.”

Urdu is just one of a number of languages spoken in Pakistan, but it retains a cultural cachet as the language of movies and music as well as the Islamic religion, while English has been more popular among elites and government ministries.

According to the CIA Factbook, nearly half of Pakistanis speak Punjabi, the language of the Punjab region, while only 8% speak Urdu. Several other languages are spoken by a fraction of the population.

The decision to break away from English creates a stark contrast with Pakistan’s neighbor and longtime rival India. English was the official language of the area that now comprises both countries under British rule, which ended in 1947.

Despite a similar language clause in its constitution, India continues to use both English and Hindi as its official languages.

Riaz Haq said...

#Google ponders purified #Pakistani #YouTube #Pakistan … via @theregister

Pakistan's Standing Committee on Information Technology and Communications has recommended that the nation end its ban on YouTube.

Pakistan was unhappy with YouTube for years, on grounds that it made it possible to view content considered blasphemous. Once the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims” made it to Google's streaming site in 2012, the nation blocked YouTube and plenty of other sites too.

That ban has stood since 2012, largely thanks to the requirement that the nation's Supreme Court waive the decision. Pakistani citizens protested the ban with a widely-signed petition that, after being ignored for a couple of years, appeared on the agenda of a Tuesday meeting of the Standing Committee.

Pakistani media reports suggest the outcome of that meeting was a recommendation that Pakistan lift the ban, as discussions between the nation and Google have reached the point at which search and advertising giant is willing to create a blasphemy-free version of YouTube just for Pakistani viewers.

One report, from Daily Pakistan, says the ban stood for so long because Google asked Pakistan to pay for a blasphemous material filtering service.

All reports agree that Google and Pakistan are talking with a view to getting YouTube switched back on on the nation. If that happens it will be another sign, if any are needed, of Google's enthusiasm for a strong presence in developing nations. Last week the company dropped the floor price for apps in India to just US$0.15, down from $0.75. Google's also pursuing Project Loon to bathe developing nations in broadband-from-balloons in order to hasten internet adoption in countries where even mobile networks aren't widespread. ®

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan expert helping non-English speaking #Indians access web in local scripts. #ICANN #India …

Even as the government calls for promoting the use of local languages - in the real world and online - a dedicated group led by a language technology expert from Pakistan is working to help the non-English speaking population in India access web addresses in their local scripts.

The 22-member panel, which is working with the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), comprises professionals from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology's Centre for Dev ..

The panel is headed by eminent professor Udaya Narayana Singh, Chair, Centre for Endangered Languages, Visva-Bharati University. It is being supported by ICANN's Sarmad Hussain who is based out of Pakistan, and has been helping develop internationalised domain names (IDN), or domain names in local languages - such as '.bharat' in Hindi. The current project is expected to drive regional content.

"It reduces the barrier for people to come online," Hussain told ET over the phone, talking a ..

Riaz Haq said...

Indo-#European languages (#English, #Hindi, #Urdu, #Spanish) originated in #Anatolia (#Turkey) via @SmithsonianMag

..there's about a 50 percent chance that any given person speaks a language from the Indo-European family, as Shoaib Daniyal recently reported for Quartz. Indo-European languages, a family that includes about half the languages spoken today. But there are still a lot of questions about who founded that original tongue, and when, and how it spread. Linguists do know that Proto-Indo-European was a language unique to a tribal culture in ancient Eurasia. They know that these ancient humans only spoke their language, they never wrote it down, and today it's extinct. (Of course, that hasn't stopped linguists from trying to reconstruct the language.) But they don't know exactly when and where the language truly began, or how it came to birth so many of our modern tongues.

Under one hypothesis, the ancestral tongue is 6,000 years old. It originated among tribal nomads on the Pontic Steppe, at the intersection of Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. These nomads had significant military prowess and had domesticated horses. Such innovative feats allowed them to spread their language by travel and conquest.

Evolutionary biologists recently usurped this nomadic theory. In 2012, a team from the University of Auckland in New Zealand estimated that Proto-Indo-European is even older, perhaps originating 8,000 to 9,500 years ago. As for its geographic origins, they pointed to Anatolia, or modern day Turkey. By their account, the first speakers practiced animal domestication and agriculture. As these practices spread, so did their language.

Riaz Haq said...

Google adds voice support on web for #Urdu, 29 other languages spoken in #Africa, #India, #Pakistan | TechCrunch

Google today is expanding its speech recognition capabilities to support dozens of new languages, particularly those in emerging markets in India and Africa, the company announced this morning. That means more people around the world will gain the ability to search the web by voice as well as type via voice using Google’s keyboard app, Gboard.

The company says with the update, it’s adding 30 languages and locales around the world, bringing the total supported to 119. The update includes 8 more Indian languages, as well as Swahili and Amharic, two of Africa’s largest languages.

The new speech recognition will be initially supported in Gboard for Android and Voice Search. U.S. English speakers, meanwhile, can now use voice dictation to express themselves using emojis, too. (e.g. you can just say “winky face emoji” instead of hunting for it.)

The new languages are also available today in the Cloud Speech API, which already supported 89 languages, and is used in a number of third-party voice and video applications, like transcription services, speech analytics applications, IVR applications, and more.

In time, the new languages will be added to other Google products, including the Google Translate app.

However, the more critical part of this news is what this means for those in emerging markets – regions that are often ignored when it comes to being among the first to gain access to new technology advances from tech giants.

But with mobile, that’s changed. Tech companies are now aiming to establish footholds in these regions, as the next large swath of internet users come online.

In India, especially, Google’s move to expand speech recognition tech could have a significant impact. The country is estimated to have some 420 million mobile internet users as of this June, making India one of the biggest markets in the world for companies like Apple, Google and Facebook to address.

Google’s expansion with voice technology also comes shortly after a piece in The Wall Street Journal detailed how tech companies are rethinking their products for the developing world – in particular, how the next billion mobile users will heavily take advantage of technologies like video and voice. Google, for example, told The WSJ, that it’s been seeing “a new kind of internet user” – a group that’s “very different from the first billion” in terms of how they access the web.

To develop speech recognition capabilities for these new languages, Google combined human labor with its machine learning technology.

The company says that it works with native speakers to collect speech samples by asking them to read common phrases. This, in turn, helped to train Google’s machine learning models to better understand the sounds and words of the new languages to improve their accuracy when they were exposed to more examples over time.

The full list of new languages includes the following:

Amharic (Ethiopia)
Armenian (Armenia)
Azerbaijani (Azerbaijani)
Bengali (Bangladesh, India)
English (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania)
Georgian (Georgia)
Gujarati (India)
Javanese (Indonesia)
Kannada (India)
Khmer (Cambodian)
Lao (Laos)
Latvian (Latvia)
Malayalam (India)
Marathi (India)
Nepali (Nepal)
Sinhala (Sri Lanka)
Sundanese (Indonesia)
Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya)
Tamil (India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia)
Telugu (India)
Urdu (Pakistan, India)