In collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, we organized a showcase and a panel discussion on the Universal Acceptance (UA) of domain names and email addresses at the opening of ITU's new Area Office and Innovation Centre in New Delhi, India on 24 March 2023. Our objectives were to highlight the importance of UA and the multilingual Internet.
We surprised the audience by showcasing an exchange of email addresses in Devanagari scripts between the regional ITU representative Ms. Atsuko Okuda and me. Many were unaware that local language emails could already be used and could further enable users around the world to access the Internet in their own languages and scripts.
I also moderated a panel discussion, "Localizing Innovations: Innovating for the Multilingual Internet, an Opportunity to Bridge the Digital Divide," focusing on the Internet as a gateway to reducing inequality. As part of the panel, the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) CEO, Anil Kumar Jain, described the Indian government's efforts to promote a multilingual Internet.
Domain names in India are already available in local languages and scripts. Mr. Jain shared that NIXI, which offers domain names in India's 22 official languages, had already offered Internationalized Domain Names to 35,000 villages, providing them the ability to create websites in their own languages and scripts. This will open new economic opportunities for these communities as more content and services are developed in their own scripts.
India is not alone. Similar innovative efforts to harness the strength of the multilingual Internet are under way in other countries using local languages and scripts.
To create a more linguistically diverse and inclusive Internet, we can expect more top-level domains to be added in the Internet's root zone in the coming years. This will make even more domain names in different scripts available – enabling users, many of them first time users, to access the Internet in their own scripts.
The impetus of our panel discussion and showcase was that a truly multilingual Internet is closer than we think. Our presentation drove home a key point: What holds the multilingual Internet back from being fully realized today aren't just technical issues. It's also a lack of awareness among users, industry players, and government policymakers. We need the industry's help to update its software applications to incorporate domain names and email addresses in local scripts; and governments to adopt UA to provide better access to its citizens.
ITU actively promotes the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals to foster innovation, ensure inclusive and equitable education, and reduce inequality within and among countries. ICANN's vision of a truly multilingual and inclusive Internet squarely aligns with this, so ITU's new presence in India offers a unique chance for us to work together.
We look forward to more collaborations to realize a truly multilingual Internet!