[council] Steps Taken for Multilingual Internet

GNSO.SECRETARIAT@GNSO.ICANN.ORG gnso.secretariat at gnso.icann.org
Wed Nov 14 10:43:45 UTC 2007

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Steps Taken for Multilingual Internet

ITU, UNESCO and ICANN collaborate at Internet Governance Forum

13 November 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 
the International Telecommunication Union, and UNESCO will collaborate 
on global efforts to forge universal standards towards building a 
multilingual cyberspace. The three agencies organized a workshop on this 
subject today during the second Internet Governance Forum (IGF) taking 
place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 12 to 15 November 2007.

The Internet is a key factor in developing a more inclusive and 
development-oriented information society, which stresses plurality and 
diversity instead of global uniformity. Multilingualism is a key concept 
to ensure cultural diversity and participation for all linguistic groups 
in cyberspace. There is growing concern that hundreds of local languages 
may be sidestepped, albeit unintentionally in the radical expansion of 
Internet communication and information. The World Summit on the 
Information Society (WSIS) recognized the importance attached to 
linguistic diversity and local content, with UNESCO given the 
responsibility to coordinate implementation of the Summit Action Line.

"The discussions at this multilingualism workshop - combined with our 
current evaluation of Internationalized Domain Names - are going to help 
ICANN keep moving toward full implementation of Internationalized Domain 
Names," said Dr Paul Twomey, ICANN's President and CEO. "ICANN is in the 
midst of the largest ever evaluation of IDNs at the top level."

Thanks to ICANN's evaluation of Internationalized Domain Names, Internet 
users around the globe can now access wiki pages with the domain name 
"example.test" in the 11 test languages - Arabic, Persian, Chinese 
(simplified and traditional), Russian, Hindi, Greek, Korean, Yiddish, 
Japanese and Tamil. The wikis will allow Internet users to establish 
their own sub pages with their own names in their own language; one 
suggestion is: example.test/yourname.

Domain Names, which are currently mainly limited to characters from the 
Latin or Roman scripts, are seen as an important element in enabling the 
multilingualization of the Internet, reflecting the diverse and growing 
language needs of all users. "ITU is fully committed to assist its 
membership in promoting the diversity of language scripts for domain 
names," said Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of ITU. "This workshop 
represents an important opportunity to strengthen the need for 
cooperation with relevant organizations, such as UNESCO, WIPO and ICANN 
among others to ensure Internet use and advancement across language 

The Plenipotentiary Conference of ITU, which took place in Antalya, 
Turkey in November 2006, recognized the need to make Internet content 
available in non-Latin based scripts. Internet users are more 
comfortable reading or browsing through texts in their own language and 
a multilingual Internet is essential to make it more widely accessible. 
The WSIS outcomes also focused on the commitment to work towards 
multilingualization of the Internet as part of a multilateral, 
transparent and democratic process involving governments and all 

UNESCO, joined by both ITU and ICANN, seeks to convene all major 
stakeholders around the world towards an agreement on universal 
standards regarding language issues in cyberspace. Such issues are far 
broader than the single issue of IDNs as they extend to standards for 
fonts and character sets, text encoding, language implementations within 
major computer operating systems, content development tools, automatic 
translation software, and search engines across languages. Ultimately, 
equitable access to information can be only achieved if we resolve 
language barriers at the same time we build communications 
infrastructures and capacity building programs.
Glen de Saint Géry
GNSO Secretariat - ICANN

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