1 November 2006, 10-13 Hours

Theme: Diversity

Sub-Theme: Promoting multilingualism and local content.

Moderator: Yoshinori Imai, The Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)


  • Julian Casasbuenas, Director, Colnodo
  • Alex Corenthin, Manager of NIC Senegal and President of ISOC Senegal
  • Patrik Fältström, Stockholm - Consulting Engineer, Cisco Systems; Member, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); Member, Swedish Government IT Policy and Strategy Group
  • Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor of Media Sociology at the Université Paris 3-Sorbonne, France
  • Prof.Qiheng Hu, Chairperson, Internet Society of China
  • T.I.M. Nurul Kabir – CEO & Founder, Spinnovation Ltd.
  • Keisuke Kamimura, GLOCOM, Tokyo
  • Norbert Klein, Open Forum of Cambodia, Asian Representative for NCUC on ICANN's GNSO Policy Council
  • Elizabeth Longworth, Executive Director, Office of the Director-General, UNESCO
  • Riyadh Najm, Saudi Arabia, Ass. Deputy Minister, Ministry of Culture and Information, Saudi Arabia, President of the Technical Committee of World Broadcasting Union
  • Adama Samassékou, President, African Academy of Languages, Bamako, Mali


  • Multilingualism, including IDN
  • Developing local content

Description of Theme

By now almost one billion people use the Internet. Many of these people cannot read or write in English and they use languages that do not use scripts derived from the Latin alphabet. They would like to use the Internet in their own language and with their native script.  A multilingual Internet will foster an inclusive, democratic, legitimate, respectful, and locally empowering Information Society.

A key element of promoting multilingualism on the Internet is creating the availability of information in local languages.  Building the capacity of both individuals and institutions in creating this local content is one of the key development issues to be discussed under this theme. Additionally, many task specific multilingual applications need to be developed.

The domain names are incapable of displaying characters not contained in the English alphabet. The challenge is to develop Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) while preserving the security and stability of the Domain Name System (DNS). This is a difficult technological and policy challenge.

What is the relevance of this theme to the IGF?

WSIS recognized that fostering and respecting cultural diversity is one of the key principles for building an open Information Society. In this context, multilingualism emerged as one of the key issues. The Tunis Agenda includes a commitment “to work towards multilingualization of the Internet, as part of a multilateral, transparent and democratic process, involving governments and all stakeholders, in their respective roles”.  It also supports “local content development, translation and adaptation, digital archives, and diverse forms of digital and traditional media”, and recognizes “that these activities can also strengthen local and indigenous communities”. The consultations and the contributions received in the preparatory process of the Athens meeting emphasized the importance all stakeholders attach to this issue.

What are the objectives of this session?

The session will focus on how to build a multilingual Internet to increase access to and participation on the Internet and in Internet governance processes. It aims to inform better on who the various actors are and on current efforts to promote a multilingual Internet and local content and overcoming barriers to the development of content in different languages. 

The session will discuss initiatives to help to improve the development of content in different languages and promote human and institutional capacity building to accomplish this objective. Panellists and participants will highlight partnerships and initiatives to promote multilingualism and local content development.