Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Beijing's 1st Tibetan Search Engine

New search engine Yongzin looks very similar to Google, no?
China recently launched its first search engine -- in Tibetan called Yongzin, which means "teacher" or "master". State media outlet Xinhua says Yongzin is a "unified portal for all major Tibetan-language websites in China".

The search engine has been in the making since 2013 and cost 57 million yuan (US$8.7 million) to produce. Eighty percent of the 150 developers are ethnic Tibetan, and the site is expected to benefit 2 million users.

You will be hard pressed to find images of him on Yongzin
With an entire population of over 1.2 billion, why would the Chinese government bother to set up a search engine for such a small percentage of people?

"[It will] meet the growing needs of the Tibetan-speaking population and facilitate the building of Tibetan digital archives and the expansion of databases in the Tibetan language," an official said.

Or how about trying to control the information flow Tibetans can access in their own language?

Tibet watchers outside of China seem skeptical about this latest development. "After decades of effectively suppressing the Tibetan language, China now puts emphasis on being seen to support it," observed Alistair Currie of the Free Tibet Movement.

"As with everything in Tibet, language is tainted with political connotations, and Beijing wants to control any development rather than permit it."

And there are problems trying to find images of Tibetan tea
Some media asked Tibetan-speaking users to try out the portal and found searches for the Dalai Lama didn't even show his official website. "None of the top results [on Yongzin] are particularly relevant," a researcher said.

When the search switched to images, the results showed images from a defunct website compared to Google, which had lots of pictures of the Dalai Lama.

Another search was made for "Tibetan tea", and those results showed Chinese officials drinking tea, whereas Google had images of the actual beverage.

Currie noted there were many more blogs, websites and social media from Tibet that were not accessible through the search engine.

So what's the whole point of this 57 million yuan exercise when hardly anything is accessible?

No comments:

Post a Comment