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Unicode Consortium to be held in Oman

GUtech is hosting a Unicode workshop with industry expert speakers on 14 - 16 February 2016

Unicode Consortium to be held in Oman
Dr. Hussain Al Salmi explains what Unicode is and how it is relevant for all organisations today

The German University of Technology in Oman is hosting a ‘Unicode Tutorial' workshop for academics, software engineers, companies that provide IT services for website and mobile applications development in local languages, in particular those that use other scripts than English.

This is the first workshop of its kind to be held in the Middle East and South Asia under the Unicode Consortium brand, typically such workshops are held in Silicon Valley, California. The workshop aims to familiarise attendees with Unicode and the concepts of software internationalisation in all operating systems, search engines, applications and the World Wide Web. 

Speakers at the workshop are experts in this field and work in international technical institutions, including Addison Phillips from Amazon, Richard Ishida from WC3, Thomas Milo from DecoType and Tex Texin from Xencraft.

The workshop will take place on 14 - 16 February at GUTech in Oman.

ITP.net speaks to Dr. Hussain Al Salmi, deputy rector for administration and finance to find out what Unicode is and what the workshop entails.

ITP.net: What is Unicode?

HS: Fundamentally, computers just deal with numbers. They store letters and other characters by assigning a number for each one.  Unicode provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language. It makes it possible to  use the Internet for communication in all languages. Before Unicode was invented, there were hundreds of different encoding systems for assigning numbers to letters. The sender could not assume the receiver saw the same information. No single encoding could contain enough characters: for example, the European Union alone requires several different encodings to cover all its languages. Even for a single language like English no single encoding was adequate for all the letters, punctuation, and technical symbols in common use. Other languages like Frenck, Spanish, Dutch, Norse, etc. were stripped of the required diacritics.

These encoding systems also conflict with one another. That is, two encodings can use the same number for two different characters, or use different numbers for the same character. Any given computer, especially servers, needs to support many different encodings; yet whenever data is passed between different encodings or platforms, that data always runs the risk of corruption. Moreover, the receiver had no clue which key to use of decoding.

ITP.net: Why is Unicode relevant for today?

HS: After the world-wide establishment of the Internet and the consequent emergence of mobile apps and new technology, data interchange between devices is no longer a rare event - to the contrary. The importance to solve the issue of encoding has arisen. Incorporating Unicode into client-server or multi-tiered applications and websites offers significant cost savings over the use of legacy character sets. Unicode enables a single software product or a single website to be targeted across multiple platforms, languages and countries without re-engineering. It allows data to be transported through many different systems without corruption.

ITP.net: How is it helping organisations in the region?

HS: By encouraging relevant organisations to do the conversion of Unicode material into languages other than English. Unicode covers all the characters for all the writing systems of the world, modern and ancient. It also includes technical symbols, punctuation, and many other characters used in writing text. The Unicode Standard is intended to support the needs of all types of users, whether in business or academia, using mainstream or minority scripts.

ITP.net: Are attendees expected to know code before attending?

HS: Not necessarily, after all, anybody who writes unknowingly already applies the concept of encoding. System and software developers are definitely familiar with encoding.

ITP.net: What will attendees get out of it?

HS: Attendees get out of it a thorough understanding of the problems and solutions associated with  multilingual, bi-directional computing and the closely related problems and solutions for multilingual computer typography: encoding and rendering of characters and how to develop implementation for all devices. The encoding standard provides the basis for processing, storage and interchange of text data in any language in all modern software and information technology protocols.

ITP.net: Will there be a follow up course?

HS: We hope to organise follow up courses. A more general Unicode Conference, where companies can present their research, developments and products is also down the pipeline. Oman is strategically positioned in the centre of the Silicon Valleys non-English target area. For the Arabic-scripted world including Iran, Pakistan, and Africa, but also for Central Asia and South Asia, including China, Japan, Indonesia, India and Korea, Oman is much closer and accessible than Silicon valley.

For more information, visit www.unicode-oman.org







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