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Multilingual internet as digital inclusion imperative

On March 28, the second global Universal Acceptance Day was held in Belgrade, Serbia, which was attended by experts of the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ. The event was organized by the Serbian National Internet Domain Registry Foundation RNIDS (registry of the Serbian country code domains .RS and .СРБ), ICANN and the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG) and was supported by the Regional Coordination Group for Universal Acceptance Steering Group CIS and Eastern Europe.

Experts from various countries shared their experience and determined the obstacles to overcome so that internationalized domain names (IDNs), email (EAI) and new generic top-level domains (new gTLDs) realize their full potential.

The opening ceremony was addressed by Serbian Minister of Information and Telecommunications Mihailo Jovanovic. He noted that the Serbian domain space is an excellent illustration of the linguistic and cultural diversity within Serbia. He also emphasized the importance of strategic state support for internet accessibility.

ICANN Board Member Danko Jevtovic spoke about the close collaboration between ICANN and UASG, and ICANN’s active support of the international UASG community’s efforts to achieve universal acceptance on the internet. He noted that these efforts are in step with ICANN’s global policy to expand the internet user base around the world.

RNIDS CEO Dejan Dukic highlighted in his remarks the fact that Serbian domain names were in almost all languages used in the country, regardless of whether they are written in Cyrillic or Latin.

Participants in a plenary session, The Multilingual Internet as a Digital Inclusion Imperative, discussed the role of domains and email addresses in today’s multilingual internet, how universal adoption is driving digital inclusion, and the socioeconomic benefits it brings.

Sally Costerton, ICANN Interim President and CEO, said that people who cannot speak English or write in Latin script, were at a significant disadvantage regarding internet access and content available. The meeting participants – Chair of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group Anil Kumar Jain, APTLD Director General Leonid Todorov, Head of the ITU European Office Jaroslaw Ponder and UNESCO representative Bhanu Neupane – also voiced their opinions, considered various aspects of the development of multilingualism on the internet, and emphasized the importance of cooperation between various stakeholders in implementing universal acceptance of domain names and email addresses. The discussion was moderated by ICANN Senior Manager for Global Stakeholder Engagement Mikhail Anisimov.

The second session, Universal Acceptance in Local Communities: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities, delved into community-driven initiatives aimed at implementing Universal Acceptance. Representatives from various organizations spanning China, Russia, Armenia, Thailand, the European Union, Serbia, and the ICANN At-Large community showcased exemplary practices, awareness-raising activities for stakeholders, and discussed barriers hindering readiness for Universal Acceptance. Maria Kolesnikova, chief analyst at the Coordination Center and head of the Russian working group on Universal Acceptance, highlighted the Coordination Center’s efforts in implementing Universal Acceptance. She also introduced conference attendees to the Поддерживаю.РФ project portal, tailored for software developers and technical specialists.

The third session, focused on practical case studies of Universal Acceptance implementation, provided participants with insights into the current level of support and the strategies adopted to implement Universal Acceptance across different countries. Panelists from Morocco, Russia, China, Thailand, and ICANN representatives shared their experiences in achieving readiness for Universal Acceptance and discussed available solutions for its implementation in various software products within their respective regions. Vadim Mikhailov, infrastructure consultant at the Coordination Center, elaborated on the technical aspects of Universal Acceptance implementation in Russia and outlined the efforts undertaken by the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ to expedite this process. He also highlighted the best practices employed by the center in this work.

During the concluding session, Integrating Universal Acceptance into the Technical Curriculum in Universities, participants discussed on the inclusion of Universal Acceptance topics and knowledge within the curricula of technical colleges and universities. They debated whether these training courses should be mandatory or elective. The consensus reached was that enhancing students’ knowledge and skills in this domain is crucial. Such knowledge is fundamental for contemporary technical specialists and can also serve as a competitive advantage in the job market.

The annual global day of Universal Acceptance of domain names and email addresses provides an excellent opportunity to assess the current status and advancements regarding this issue worldwide. It’s worth noting that significant progress in the development of multilingual internet addressing has been achieved through the collaborative efforts of experts from the Regional Coordination Group for Universal Acceptance of the CIS and Eastern Europe. This group actively involves country code domain registries from our extensive region. During last year’s regional conference in Yerevan dedicated to Universal Acceptance Day, we discussed the initial outcomes of our collective efforts. This year, in Belgrade, we presented substantially more significant results, which received high praise from ICANN, UASG, and the international community,” said Coordination Center Director Andrey Vorobyev.

The first global Universal Acceptance Day, held in 2023, was a momentous occasion with widespread international participation. Over 10,000 people from 40 countries joined in, engaging in more than 50 events worldwide. Among these events was the regional Universal Acceptance Day conference, which took place in Yerevan. This conference was organized by members of the Regional Coordination Group for Universal Acceptance of the CIS and Eastern Europe, including the Internet Society NGO (the country domain registry of Armenia), with support from the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ.

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