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Press Release: Coalition for Digital Africa Turns Focus to Universal Acceptance

Collaboration with African Universities Lays Groundwork for Multilingual Internet

Nairobi, Kenya – 13 April 2023 – The Coalition for Digital Africa has launched another major initiative aimed at strengthening Internet infrastructure across the continent. Undertaken in collaboration with the Association of African Universities (AAU), the project focuses on making websites, applications, and email systems within Africa's higher education institutions ready to support all domain names and email addresses.

Universal Acceptance (UA) allows all valid domain names, unique addresses like – and email addresses to be accepted, validated, stored, processed, and displayed correctly and consistently, regardless of script, language, or character length. It is a fundamental requirement for achieving a multilingual Internet, where Internet users around the world can navigate entirely in local languages and scripts.

The new project will create awareness of UA within higher education institutions across Africa. Training will be provided for these institutions to configure and make their websites, applications, and email systems UA-ready, and incorporate the concepts of UA into their curricula. This is critical to academic work in various ways, including being able to access vital content from the Internet for research and learning.

"ICANN is committed to ensuring that the Internet continues to grow safely in Africa, to bring communities, cultures, and economies together," said Sally Costerton, Interim President and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). "That's why collaboration among Internet access providers, manufacturers, content providers, and academia is so important. We must work together to support the development of Africa's digital economy."

More than 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa. Expanding the number of languages and scripts which can be used in domain names is an important step toward building a more useful and empowering Internet.

"This work truly lays the foundation for a more inclusive Internet," said Professor Olusola Bandele Oyewole, Secretary General of the AAU. "By enabling the use of local languages and scripts, users here in Africa and around the world will be able to more readily access important content online – from within the continent and beyond – for academic purposes."

Stakeholders in higher education and research institutions are encouraged to participate in the work of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), a volunteer-led group supported by ICANN. The UASG is working to achieve UA-readiness, in which Internet applications, devices, and systems treat all domain names in a consistent manner.

Conceived and initiated by ICANN, the Coalition for Digital Africa is an alliance of like-minded organizations committed to building a robust and secure Internet infrastructure to bring more Africans online. More information is available at

About the AAU

Created in 1967, the AAU is the voice of higher education in Africa. It aims to improve the quality of African higher education and strengthen its contribution to Africa's development by supporting the core functions of higher education institutions and facilitating critical reflection and consensus building on issues affecting higher education. The AAU is headquartered in Accra, Ghana, has a membership of more than 400 Higher Education Institutions and is the technical implementing arm of the African Union Commission (AUC) on matters related to higher education in Africa. The Association is the Coordinator for the implementation of The Higher Education Cluster of the AUC's Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25).


ICANN's mission is to help ensure a stable, secure, and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet, you need to type an address – a name or a number – into your computer or other device. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN helps coordinate and support these unique identifiers across the world. ICANN was formed in 1998 as a nonprofit public benefit corporation with a community of participants from all over the world.

Media Contacts

Luna Madi
Communications Director, EMEA
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
Mobile: +90 (533) 031 35 05

Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."