For many years, the people of Laos haven’t been able to use the Lao language on their mobile phones because it isn’t standardized or supported. So as a substitute, many are communicating in Thai or English via their mobile phones.
That has caused many locals, especially the younger generation, to use less of the Lao language, which may potentially bring the language to the brink of extinction if the dire situation goes on.
The startup XY Mobile understands the problem and has worked hard to bring the Lao language onto mobile phones. And last week, I heard from co-founder Allan Rasmuden that the startup has reached a major milestone — The Lao government has agreed to adopt the Phetasarth, the standardized Lao font, on mobile phones and computers across Laos. Here’s the announcement:
Ministers and committee agreed to accept Phetasarth OT as the standard national font and urged (notice and decree will be adopted for support) operators to work with companies to support Lao language on mobile phones and as content. Mobile phones sold in Laos in the future will have some sort of Lao support.
It is time for us to teach our younger generation not to use “karaoke language” to communicate and to provide access to local information via networks. Lao is a culture and a nation with unique language and ways of life. We should adhere and support this both in via technology and other media. The MPT is a single entity that acts on behalf of the nation on telecommunications and information technology which will set the standards so that others can follow or adopt. Phetsarath OT will launch on 1/1/2012.
To many of us, bringing a font onto mobiles might sound simple. But as you may have noticed, the Lao language has a unique font type and shape, which has required the XY Mobile team to create the Lao font from scratch. It isn’t just digitizing the Lao typeface. It is also about ensuring that the locals know how to use the Lao language on their mobile phones. Anousak, managing director at XY Mobile, spent almost five years to make and perfect the Phetsarath, the name of the new Lao font.
XY Mobile is solving a real problem even though it isn’t as cool as building a Facebook or Instagram. Unfortunately, the announcement doesn’t bring any revenue to the team. It’s still a longgg way to go for XY Mobile before they can make some money. Allan shared with me more:
That is half the battle won, however no handsets nor content is available in Laos (until XY Mobile launch their devices). But with the new decree all stakeholders will come together and start to develop with us.
Other handset makers will not issue the Lao language themselves but would make use of us as a local distributor – unfortunately they want us to pay for this, which means we have to buy handsets from them and re-sell them. Again we don’t want to wait for this so we will make our own handsets and tablets.
We will of course use this new decree to try and secure some funding for our project. We are still making this with our own money.
Congrats to the team for its first milestone and we hope more success will follow after this announcement. It’s a really cool project that XY Mobile is working on.