There is an ambitious, and necessary, goal shared by many in the technology industry to connect at least the next 1.5 billion world citizens to the Internet by 2020. This goal is not just about technology infrastructure, though that is a critical component. To compel people to connect, and to make the Internet relevant, it must be open, interoperable, accessible, easy to navigate and practically useful.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), of which I am a Board member, helps, with other players, to coordinate the Internet’s unique identifiers to ensure a secure, stable, open and interoperable Internet. ICANN through the Domain Name System (DNS), the naming and addressing system, allows any device, person or entity to securely reach another on the Internet.
As more and more Internet users connect, it’s important that they are able to find content that’s relevant to them and their communities in their chosen language. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) enable people around the world to use domain names in local languages and scripts. IDNs are formed using characters from scripts other than the Latin script such as Arabic, Chinese, or Cyrillic. This helps Internet users across the world and engage online using a domain name system entirely in their chosen language and script.
ICANN’s IDN program is primarily focused on the planning and implementation of IDN top-level domains (TLDs), including IDN country code TLDs and generic TLDs. The IDN Program also supports other activities geared toward a more effective use of IDNs at the second-level of the DNS.
ICANN also encourages Internet application developers to adopt best practices to achieve Universal Acceptance; a concept for Internet applications and systems to treat all TLDs, including IDN TLDs, in a consistent manner, so that users around the world can navigate entirely in local languages using familiar scripts.
Our work on IDNs also contribute to Action Line 8 of WSIS and to target 10.2, under Sustainable Development Goal 10 of the UN SDGs. We firmly believe that a multilingual Internet will foster the creation of local content in local languages, so there is more demand and more benefits on the ground, as the next billion users get connected to the Internet.
It is one of topics I will discuss in the Forum session When connectivity is not enough: driving meaningful digital inclusion, exploring how to improve access to broadband services and applications throughout the world at ITU Telecom World 2017 next week.
Because when we look ahead at the future of the Internet and connectivity, we know there are a host of challenges. At ICANN, we will do our part to help increase global Internet access by making the Internet more accessible in multiple languages around the world.