Social inequality and the pandemic: What can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic context about the relationship between digital inequality and social and economic inequality? Similarly, what lessons can be drawn with respect to the pandemic and Internet-related human rights? What does this suggest about policy approaches for digitalisation and digital inclusion?
Inclusion, rights and stakeholder roles and responsibilities: What are/should be the responsibilities of governments, businesses, the technical community, civil society, the academic and research sector and community-based actors with regard to digital inclusion and respect for human rights, and what is needed for them to fulfil these in an efficient and effective manner?
Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min
Universal Acceptance (UA) is a fundamental requirement for a truly multilingual and digitally inclusive Internet. UA ensures that all domain names, including internationalised domain names, and email addresses are treated equally and can be used by all Internet-enabled applications, devices, and systems. Today this is not the case, which means many people now using the Internet, and a majority of the next billion Internet users, are unable to use their native language in their email name, when they submit forms on the Internet, when they register for services, and much more.
Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG.tech) proposing this Town Hall event is a community-based globally organized multistakeholder group conducting social and technical research to determine both the challenges in adopting UA and undertaking outreach to promote the adoption of UA practices. Through this session, UASG will bring together a variety of these stakeholders to share the roles each stakeholder must play to support UA, highlighting the benefits that accrue to language communities as a result. These stakeholders will also discuss how they should collaborate to promote UA for effective and urgently needed digital inclusion.
To be inclusive, end users must be able to use the online technology globally. Supporting the languages people speak around the world is a necessary prerequisite for providing both the ease of access to end users and choice to express themselves online. Otherwise, we leave out communities which can only communicate in their own languages, deepening already existing inequalities of access to the Internet and the societal and economic benefits such access can bring.
Domain names are the key to multilingual content online. Similarly, emailing remains one of the most important communication channels. Email addresses are now also widely used to sign up for applications and services and become a gate-pass for interacting online. The technical community has worked hard to enable both domain names and email addresses in local languages and it is now possible to have a complete experience in one’s own language.
However, there are continued challenges in universal acceptance of domain names and email addresses (UA) for standards, tools, and applications globally. These challenges are hampering the local communities from benefiting from the availability of this multilingual technology. Addressing UA requires a concerted effort by a variety of stakeholders. Governments, one of the drivers of technology adoption as well as one of the largest consumers, should play their role in demanding solutions which support UA, especially for online citizen services, e.g. Government of Rajasthan, India, has promoted use of Hindi email addresses for use with its citizen services (see case study https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/UASG013E-en-case-study-rajmail-government-of-rajasthan.pdf).
The technical community must also play its part on two levels. Analysis of a variety of programming languages (https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/documents/UASG018A-en-digital.pdf), email tools (https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/documents/UASG030-en-digital.pdf), content management systems (https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/documents/UASG032-en-digital.pdf) and networking tools (https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/documents/UASG024-en-digital.pdf) has shown that though many of these technology platforms are increasingly supporting UA, there are still significant gaps. Therefore, developers should update their platforms to support UA. Additionally, developers of end-user applications or end-user systems are too often not utilizing or configuring their products to support UA with the tools that are made available to them. A study of websites globally (https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/documents/UASG027-en-digital.pdf) shows that only about 11% can accept email addresses in local languages, such as Chinese or Arabic. Another study on email servers (https://uasg.tech/wp-content/uploads/documents/UASG021D-en-digital.pdf) shows that less than 10% of these servers globally are configured to support such email addresses. So, those who develop and deploy end-user applications and systems must also ensure that UA support is provided to support multilingual access.
The academic community must enhance their training and coursework to instill the need for supporting UA in their students to make the internet more inclusive and teach them how to implement this multilingual computing technology. Academia needs to highlight the socio-economic implications on communities and how policy and governance can impact the UA adoption.
Finally, civil society and the business community, who provide support and services to end-user communities, should also use domain names and emails in local languages to communicate with communities and consumers, which significantly increases their local reach. Communicating in local languages also increases trust and understanding for end users, which is essential in disseminating information to address stressful situations, such as the current COVID19 pandemic. Civil society should also consider how to use their programs and advocacy to influence governments, businesses and others to be UA compliant - for example in projects for local connectivity and local content.
In summary, in a new after-COVID-19 reality much of the global population, especially those who are under-served, and most of the next billion users coming online (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-next-billion-internet-users-worldwide/), need online access and communication in their local languages, as they have less or no ability to freely communicate in a foreign language. Domain names and email addresses are gateways and are now technically possible and available in local languages. However, the tools and technologies deployed still lag in supporting this essential internationalization for broader access. The session will involve relevant stakeholders, including technology providers, business, civil society and public sector, for discussing the best way to collaborate to address universal acceptance challenges to achieve collective goals for an all-inclusive internet.
The session is being organized to discuss and determine the mechanisms for stakeholder international and regional collaboration to promote Universal Acceptance. This will be done by online and some onsite panelists sharing their initial statements from the perspective of different stakeholders to set the stage for discussion. Moderators will use these statements to elicit discussion with the participants, which will be the major portion of the session, anticipated to be between 30-40 minutes. Both onsite and online participants will be encouraged to contribute to this discussion. A short survey using online tools will also be conducted during the session to gather feedback from the participants on additional mechanisms for collaboration of stakeholders. The online and onsite moderators will be taking turns to ensure equal participation opportunities for those present and those joining online. UA is an important global project addressing issues that are at the core of Internet governance, and will bring tangible and we hope quite quick benefits to a great number of people.
Universal Acceptance Steering Group / Coordination Center for TLD RU
Mark Svancarek, Microsoft, Private Sector/Technical Community, USA, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Sylvia Herlein, LACRALO, Civil Society, Brazil, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Cengiz Acarturk, Middle East Technical University, Academia, Turkey, Asia-Pacific Group
Anil Kumar Jain, The National Internet Exchange of India, Government, India, Asia-Pacific Group
Yangyi Wu (Walter Wu), UASG Ambassador for China, Registry of.商标(.xn--czr694b), Internet DotTrademark Organisation Limited, Private Sector, China, Asia-Pacific Group
Ajay Data, Chair of Universal Acceptance Steering Group, Data Infosys Limited, Technical Community, India, Asia-Pacific Group
Maria Kolesnikova, Technical Community, Eastern European Group
Dennis Tan Tanaka, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Sarmad Hussain, Technical Community
Targets: 8. Upgrading technology to support Universal Acceptance (UA) of domain names and email addresses would provide the opportunity for all people to connect to and to use the Internet and harness its value for themselves. Greater access would promote development opportunities and the creation of jobs that are innovative, creative and stimulate entrepreneurship and especially the creation of SMEs for which local language technology is key. Accessing government services is essential to many businesses.
9. Being able to access the internet in local languages enables better access, more trust and enhanced opportunity for socio-economic development for the under-served communities. Thus, supporting Universal Access provides equitable, effective and meaningful access to online resources. By significantly increasing access to information and ICTs, unconnected communities, particularly in developing and least developed countries, could benefit from all the opportunities relevant access would afford to them.
The ability to use the Internet in one's own language also creates human well being, ensuring inclusivity and empowering disadvantaged communities. It allows for these communities to also share their narrative and therefore be represented in the online community.
10. Accessing the Internet in one’s own language has the capacity to empower people, including those who have traditionally been excluded from fully participating in society. This includes social, economic and political inclusion irrespective of age, gender, disability, race or ethnical origin. By promoting appropriate legislation that advances UA-readiness, governments can help reduce inequalities and ensure equal opportunities.
17. Collaboration and partnerships are key towards implementing UA across all stakeholders. Regional and international partners can share experiences and best practices amongst themselves to support access to technology and innovation. Capacity building is thus crucial to support national and regional plans for implementation of UA-readiness and the use of domain names in local languages to promote an internet that is accessible for all.
Universal Acceptance (UA) of all valid domain names and email addresses by all technology applications is necessary for providing access to the billions of end-users who can only communicate in their local languages. For example, websites using domain names in local language for small and medium enterprises see higher traffic of end-users.
Awareness and promotion is needed to address UA of domain names and email addresses in local languages and to address the apathy of the technology companies towards UA. This requires all stakeholders to collaborate. For example, research in needed on UA using technology adoption model along training. Governments play a key role in UA adoption by incentivizing it by the community, and tech companies should start adopting UA one step at a time.
All stakeholders, including civil society, academia, technology providers, government, should play their part by making their own websites, applications and services UA ready and by creating broader awareness on the use of domain names and email address in local languages.
IGF 2021 Town Hall #31 Universal Acceptance for Wider Access through Collaboration
The meeting was held in the hybrid format. 20 participants attended online and five attendees onsite, including a speaker.
The session brought together stakeholders from civil society, technology, government, private business and academia to discuss their perspective on making the internet more accessible by enabling domain names and email addresses in the local languages and scripts of the communities. The panel discussed the current challenges and possible solutions achievable through collaboration.
The panelists included Mark Svancarek, Microsoft (Business/Technical Community), Sylvia Herlein, Latin American and Caribbean Islands Regional At-Large Organization (LACRALO), (Civil Society), Cengiz Acarturk, Middle East Technical University (Academia), Anil Kumar Jain, The National Internet Exchange of India (Public Sector), Yangyi Wu (Walter Wu), President of Strategic Partner & Business Development for the registry of.商标(.xn--czr694b), Internet DotTrademark Organisation Limited (Technical Community), and Ajay Data, Chair of Universal Acceptance Steering Group and CEO Data Xgen Technologies Pvt Ltd (Business). It was moderated by Maria Kolesnikova (Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ) and Dennis Tan Tanaka (Verisign).
Maria noted that 63% of people have access to the internet, and most of the rest of the world population would need to access the internet in their own languages according to the recent ITU Report. The users should experience the internet in their own language or script; this is even more important for those accessing it for the very first time. To that end, as a first step, this means that all valid domain names and email addresses, including in local languages, should work with all applications. This requires collaboration between stakeholder groups, which the panel will discuss.
The session started with a poll conducted on the role of Universal Acceptance and its benefits. 67% participants responded that UA enables easier access to the internet, and 25% considered it improves interoperability by enabling equal support for all domain names and email addresses. No participant thought it could cause any division of the internet into language-based communities.
Sylvia shared she was part of an organization which has 61 groups from different countries from Latin America. As end-users they conducted a series of webinars to create awareness for UA implementation. Technical training was also conducted for software developers from Latin America in collaboration with ICANN and Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), with more than 100 participants from multiple countries. As a next step the community will be testing their local websites for UA readiness. Another training is being organized for the North American region. The aim is to address apathy by the technical community to address these issues for end users. For example, governments should take up UA in their procurement practice.
Cengiz from academia said that technology acceptance models should be used for UA adoption, and longitudinal research be conducted. In addition, UA should be integrated into technical curricula, though incorporating new technologies may take time, e.g. the Human Computer Interaction took many years to be integrated. In the future, UA will find its place in technical programs. We should collaborate with IEEE and ACM for global adoption. UA should also be adopted into the university community services, like email services. Finally, training should be done for society through universities as they provide a trusted platform.
Anil Kumar Jain said that UA is very important from the government perspective. 89% of people in India are non-English speakers. With 800 million internet users, it has a large user base. The Government of India is asking that email providers, website providers, browsers, and other groups should set their own targets to achieve UA. A multi-stakeholder UA implementation group has been set up by the government to discuss solutions and how to address these through collaboration. A reward recognition system is being developed to acknowledge the technical organizations. A free digital identity is being provided to 100 thousand villages. There are additional promotional schemes for local content, including free IDN and email addresses in 22 official languages in India. These measures will contribute to the promotion of UA.
Dr. Ajay Data said that the technical community needs all the various types of technology to be UA ready. Universal Acceptance Steering Group (https://uasg.tech/) is measuring and addressing UA readiness for global technical applications. Technical solutions are being developed by his organizations, including XgenPlus, DataMail and VideoMeet, which are all UA ready. These are tested using local language IDNs and email addresses. Free email addresses are provided to anyone to check their own applications using DataMail. The technical organizations should make the community see the benefits of UA, implement UA practices, demonstrate solutions, and train others to promote UA. Training the trainers is needed as there is a very large audience to create awareness.
Mark Svancarek from Microsoft shared that email support in local languages is a hard project involving many stakeholders, including ICANN, cloud services like Microsoft, standard experts and others. Engineers and managers may resist UA as they think it is a new technology but they should be told that it is based on stable standards. If they think that email is being replaced by messaging services, they should note that eventually these will co-exist. The video link was shared to show how the English alphabet cannot replace local language in technology. To address the argument that there is insufficient demand, Microsoft went back to its value statement: Empower every individual and organization to achieve more. The chicken and egg problem is solved by UASG by creating standards and applications, develop testing methodology, test applications and then reaching out for remediation. An email tool and service self-certification program is being developed to encourage UA adoption. Additional messaging and training materials are also being developed. UA is only possible through collaboration. Microsoft is leading by example by making Exchange and Outlook UA ready.
Walter Wu from Chinese domain name registry said that UA includes supporting domain names in local languages. Businesses, e.g., Browsers, social media application producers and others, usually ask how many users use domain names in local languages. The domain name registries and registrars have a role to play here. By bringing on more registrants, they will provide other technical companies with motivation to support UA. So, promoting local language websites using local language domain names will help eventual adoption of UA. The speaker shared examples of Chinese domain names used by small and medium businesses, where websites using domain names in local languages get higher traffic from the end users. The Internet Society of China is promoting the use of Chinese domain names through the Chinese Domain Name Initiative. In early November 2021 Chinese ministry MIIT published the 15th five-year national plan which includes promoting an UA environment in China.
The speakers made concluding remarks on UA adoption. UA acceptance requires step by step adoption. Everyone should start on the journey. We should also celebrate our successes instead of getting frustrated by what still needs to be done. Keep working together and we will solve the UA challenge. UA is really needed for end-users. Big companies are reserving IDNs for brand protection, but they should be encouraged to use these IDNs, e.g. the top 500 global companies. We should keep raising awareness and building capacity for UA for end-user adoption. Technology can be promoted by influencers so we should find people to promote it. We should also start sharing the success stories, appoint UA ambassadors and set up a helpline to help implement UA.