U+20B9: Rupee gets Unicode identity

U+20B9: Rupee gets Unicode identity

New Delhi: The rupee symbol, approved by the cabinet last month, is set to be adopted globally, joining the ranks of currencies such as the dollar and the pound.

California-based Unicode Consortium, which sets language standards for the computing industry, has voted to accept the rupee symbol as part of its global standards.

Unicode standards are followed by all stakeholders of the computing industry such as hardware manufacturers, software firms and application developers. The adoption of the rupee symbol by Unicode will make it interoperable and, therefore, usable in communication the world over.

The department of information technology (DIT), under the ministry of communications and IT, had on 5 August submitted an application to the consortium to adopt the new symbol.

“The Unicode Consortium has voted to accept the new Indian rupee symbol character on 11 August and the code assigned is U+20B9 in the currency page," a senior DIT official told Mint on condition of anonymity as the person is not authorized to speak to the media.

The Unicode Consortium is a not-for-profit organization, which has representation from all major technology firms, database vendors, government ministries, research institutions and international agencies.

Deepak Kumar, an independent information and communication technologies consultant, said that Unicode accepting the rupee symbol as part of its global standards will ensure the widespread usage of the symbol. “Though Unicode standards are not legally binding, they are adopted by most major technology players," he said.

Some websites have already developed the font, which is available for free download. It has, however, to be globally accepted for the symbol to be read correctly.

It may be some time before the symbol is actually published in the latest Unicode standards.

“Six to eight months is what we are expecting, before it is part of their publication," said another DIT official, who also did not want to be identified. Unicode publishes its updated version of standards with a time gap of one-two years.

“We will write to them requesting for the changes to be inculcated in their upcoming publication standards or at least publicize it so that everyone can start adopting them," said the DIT official quoted in the first instance.

The Web version of Unicode’s latest standard, 5.2, was published last year in October. The next publication is expected later this year.

Meanwhile, DIT will also send an application to the International Organization for Standardization for the inclusion of the new symbol in its standards. These work in parallel to Unicode standards. “The meeting is expected to happen in October," said the DIT official.

The department is also holding discussions with hardware manufacturers to arrive at a consensus on how the symbol will appear on the keyboard.

The latest standards from Unicode contain 107,000 characters covering 90 scripts, including some characters in the Vedic-Sanskrit script.

Over the past decade, the department, under its Technology Development for Indian Languages programme, has been trying to get Indian language characters included in Unicode standards so that they can be used globally.