The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> MODERATOR: Hello, good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the main session of the IGF focusing on how can we achieve a multilingual Internet. This session is also co‑organized by many of our partners including those of the Policy Network on Meaningful Access that I am very proud of Chairing, Co‑Chairing with Sylvia Cadena of APNIC.
Welcome to physically in the room as well as those online. It's a pleasure to have you all. We have just finished a very interesting session that the Policy Network organized, and so many of the themes that were discussed are very relevant to this conversation.
I want to move quickly because we have two amazing keynote speakers to start the session, Doreen Bogdan‑Martin of the ITU, as well as Dr. Tawfic Jelassi of UNESCO.
And it is my honour to be here with them and everyone that is going to join us for this session. We are going to focus in this main session on why it's important that we think about local languages in the context of meaningful universal connectivity. And with that in mind I am going to first introduce Doreen Bogdan‑Martin who most of you already know.
She has spoken quite a few times at IGF this week. I'm a big fan of Doreen for many reasons, but mostly because she has been an incredible advocate for Digital Inclusion, and digital equality in our space for many years, and she is the first ever woman leader of the ITU Development Sector.
So we are very proud of your work, Doreen, not just as professional as but as women in technology in our world of IGF. Welcome to the session, and I'm going to pass you the word right away for your keynote introduction. Thank you.
>> DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN: Thank you for that very, very kind opening. It's great to be part of this IGF session on one of the most critical issues on Digital Inclusion. I have been asked today to share framing marked on what constituted what we call meaningful connectivity. For me that's an issue that's been on my mind because last week the ITU launched new figures on the state of connectivity around the world.
Those new data, I think, were broadly encouraging with the disruption caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic translating into this steep rise in the numbers coming online. We estimate about 800 million new users that connected between 2019 and 2021. Of course, that's the strongest growth we have seen in over a decade of bringing the total number of people online to 4.9 billion.
As I said yesterday in the IGF opening, that's positive news, but, of course, as often statistics can mask a more nuanced picture because it's clear that a large portion of those 4.9 billion currently counted as connected actually don't enjoy the kind of connectivity that all of us rely on every day. Many of them are not what we would call meaningfully connected.
So what do we mean by meaningful connectivity? Well, let me start with the Broadband Commission, the Broadband Commission for sustainable development, and Sonia is an active member in that group and I want to recognize my partner and my colead the ADG Tawfic Jelassi from UNESCO.
In the commission we define the term as broadband that's available, that's accessible, that's relevant, affordable, that's also safe, trusted and agency building. In a nutshell, we mean connectivity that people can use freely whenever they need it to make a tangible difference in their lives.
So ITU statistics show that about 95% of the world's population are within reach of a mobile broadband signal, so that means that they could theoretically connect yet 2.9 billion people are totally offline. As we know and we have heard at different sessions in the IGF this week, the barriers to connectivity are many, and, of course, affordability is a big one. The skills piece is another one, but our analysis and, of course, the focus of the discussion here today shows that a lack of compelling actionable content in relevant languages remains one of the most important blocks to wider Internet uptake.
Most of us are familiar with the figure, an estimates 7,000 languages and dialects. Only about 10 have any substantial online presence, and that means that thousand and of indigenous minority and low resource languages are actually excluded, and with that that means that millions are cut off from the benefits and the opportunities of the digital world.
Language is so much more than just syntax and phonetics. The languages we speak are integral to our identity. Language defines the way that we view the world, the way that we interact with others and the way that we express our own unique realities.
We will never achieve our vision of an Internet United if we do not ensure that the online world actually reflects and amplifies the full diversity of our human experience, and, of course, all of its richness.
And, of course, that means that there can be no universal meaningful connectivity until we achieve a truly multilingual online space. We have made some progress with the creation of International Domain Names. I think that was one step forward, and, of course, technologically, the technological advances like online translation engines, multilingual voice‑driven interfaces and AI powered language processing systems are all helping to expand the Internet's linguistic capabilities, but technology is no magic bullet.
The reality is that very few online language tools have been developed for lesser used languages. And while powerful machine learning technologies require huge amounts of data to train, literally billions of words and thousands of hours of speech, these rich data sets that we need are not available for all languages, nor do many minority language speakers have the means or the skills to develop strategies to promote their own languages online.
Clearly relying on technology alone is not go going to be enough and that's why working together and incorporating grass roots efforts by local communities needs to be a key element of our work. I was encouraged to read recently of a new partnership between digital language activists in Africa working with organisations like Wikimedia to improve online presence of widely spoken languages like Zulu, Dagbani, Igbo and others.
In Europe we have Norway with the Sami Parliament and Arctic University of Tromso that are collaborating on free, accessible technologies for Sami speakers including keyboards, spell checkers and machine translation systems. And just this week the Indian Government confirmed its commitment to a multilingual Internet as part of India Vision engaging with technical partners, civil society and academia to promote regional languages that will help then support Digital Inclusion.
So just to wrap up, and Sonia, many of the participants I see here with us here today, I want to link back, of course, to the Tunis Agenda adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society, and I see Markus Kummer who is very active in that with us in the Summit today.
So we still have much work to do, and in my own organisation in the ITU, we have our Resolution 133 that reaffirms ITU Member States' commitment to linguistic diversity and equality. In just a few days we are going to celebrate the beginning of the Decade of Indigenous Languages, and to reflect that I'm pleased to inform you that next year's WSIS forum will have a special track on ICTs and indigenous peoples and cultures. We will have a hackathon, we will have WSIS prizes, so I hope you will join us for that.
As digital services continue to expand into every aspect of our lives and our economies, the benefits of connectivity have never been greater. So ensuring that everyone can access and everyone can benefit from those opportunities regardless of where they live or the languages they speak is absolutely fundamental to our vision of a connected planet and, of course, our pledge to "Leave No One Behind."
With that, ladies and gentlemen, it's great to be here with you. I look forward to the discussion and more importantly to working with all of you as we work to build a richer, more equitable online space where each and every person has the opportunity to make their voice heard. Thanks so much! Back to you, Sonia.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Doreen, for those inspiring words. And I have to say I very much like your focus on the diversity of the human experience, a point that Sylvia and others made in the previous session and one that is so critical for the work we have ahead of us as you said, and also the fact that so much of the work that you and your colleagues are organising are also taking a new shape, right, in refocusing on a lot of these issues that are so critical for not just universal access in general, but all of the dimensions of universal access including multilingualism. This is encouraging to hear.
Thank you for your leadership, again. And I am very pleased and honored that not only I get to introduce Doreen that I'm already a fan, but another person that I'm also a big fan, especially the work of your team which has been fantastic, Dr. Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director‑General for Communication and Information and has been spokesperson in so many spaces. It feels like you have been with us many years, so welcome, and please share your remarks to us, to our colleagues here in person and online today. Thank you, Dr. Tawfic Jelassi.
>> TAWFIC JELASSI: Thank you very much, Sonia, for your kind introduction. Hello, Doreen, nice to see you on screen. Doreen and I are partners in UNESCO in the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
Let me add a few remarks. We all recognize that languages are a core element of human rights, and, of course, they are the repositories of our traditions, values, and knowledge. The key question, of course, is what do we do about multilingualism and linguistic diversity in the cyberspace? What UNESCO, in particular, since I wear that hat, what UNESCO has been doing to contribute to the effort of multiple parties to ensure that you can achieve multilingual Internet.
Doreen has said if you don't do that, then obviously we are going to leave behind significant parts of the population worldwide and nobody wants us to end with that. Doreen referred to the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis. It happened that I was a guest speaker in that event. I wasn't part of the UN. And clearly this was a groundbreaking event that talked about the concept of establishing an Information Society.
How can it be if it's not multilingual in the cyberspace? So let me hear folks on what UNESCO has been doing, and here I will mention four initiatives.
Initiative number one, the UNESCO recommendation concerning the promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace.
We do have at UNESCO a number of recommendations. The latest one voted a couple of weeks ago by our 193 Member States on the ethics of AI. So here I wanted to stress this UNESCO recommendation to promote the use of multilingualism in cyberspace. The second action I would like to mention and Doreen hinted to it. She did briefly mention it. We did organize in 2019 the International Bureau of Indigenous Languages, which was highly successful and now we are about to kick off in one last time the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022‑2032.
This is very, very important for us to raise global awareness of the importance of indigenous languages. Why? Because we know that in the world there are more than 7,000 languages, but how many of them are present in cyberspace? The latest statistic I have is 130 out of several thousand languages.
So when we talk about digital divide, it's not only whether the person has a PC, tablet or Smart Phone or the person can financially afford paying for Internet subscription, but how if the person cannot understand the content that is offered online, because it's not in his or her native language or home language.
So the digital divide would include as well the linguistic issue here and this important, this International Decade of Indigenous Languages is a very important opportunity as we see it to mobilize the national community to advance the multilingualism issue including in cyberspace.
The third action I would mention is what we did last month at UNESCO which is launching the world atlas of languages, which is a digital platform to offer the rich linguistic diversity because it reports more than 8300 languages spoken and signed languages in the world.
We believe this is very important to preserve some of the languages that are at risk in different parts of society, and also to give or to increase the profile of these languages across the world. The fourth action here is what UNESCO has been doing to support the African language program, which is a project that spear heads the open for global alliance where the aim being to develop an African language data set and advance participatory language technology development.
Again, Doreen did refer to some of these language technologies from speech recognition to obviously text to speech and the like. So let me highlight here, and equal what was already said. We need to join forces, we need to opt for a holistic approach, different UN agencies and other parties have been working on this matter of multilingualism and in cyberspace in particular, obviously we have been advocating for a multi‑stakeholder, but holistic approach. We do complement each other in making the Internet truly multilingual.
We need to support communities to use the Internet and digital resources in a language that they understand, that they master, and to have access to the content which is meaningful for them so they can create value through that content and contribute by also creating content themselves. That's the type of vicious circle that we could create.
Let me here end my remarks by saying UNESCO is fully committed to join forces to produce, disseminate original content in as many languages as possible, and through this holistic approach I mentioned we can truly ensure that no one is left behind, certainly not on the ground of language in cyberspace. Thank you for your kind attention.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you so much. I think we will clap for Doreen and Dr. Tawfic Jelassi if you don't mind.
These were very important remarks from both of you. I am also inspired by this idea of the international indigenous languages which is really wonderful to bring together in our kind of digital development space and ecosystem because we cannot, as you said, as you pointed out so eloquently, we cannot have a digital society that is inclusive without ensuring that people can communicate however, they want to communicate in their languages.
So multilingualism is so incredibly critical. So thank you both for those inspiring keynotes. We are very honored to have you here. I understand, Dr. Tawfic Jelassi, that you have a plane to catch, so we excuse you when you need to move. It's okay. We are lucky to have many more here and online. I am very honored to go from Doreen and Dr. Tawfic Jelassi giving us this wonderful picture of this moment that we are living of refocusing on multilingualism to share the experience of two wonderful colleagues who are leading this on the day‑to‑day basis Alana Manchineri, an indigenous woman from the Brazilian Amazon as well as Sharad Sharma from India, two incredible activists that are using their local languages in very innovative ways to organize, to mobilize, to bring about connections, and using digital spaces and digital technology to increase the possibilities of communications in their communities.
So I am very honored to have Alana and Sharad here today. We will start with Alana Manchineri who will speak in Portuguese or Spanish, so for those of you who need translation, prepare yourselves to go through the translation interpretation button on the Zoom, and if there is a need I can also try to help with translation summaries. So Alana, you have been a communicator with your indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon for many years.
You are also a biologist from the Federal University of Brazil, and you are an activist with indigenous women and especially with young indigenous communicators. Tell us how do you utilize and support the use of your community's local languages for all of the work that we do in your communities? It's an honour to have you. I will pass it on to you and I hope everyone is ready for your intervention.
>> ALANA MANCHINERI: Thank you. I currently live in Manaus, which is a city located in the Amazon region. The region is also home to the largest indigenous population in the Amazon region. I represent the Manchineri which is an indigenous community. My grandfather was one of the leaders who created the organisation that I currently work for.
What is it that we do? We champion the rights of indigenous communities. Everything we do have as a digital aspect. Our organisation champions and supports women and the indigenous people living in the Amazon region.
We are aware of the fact that very often fake news can have an adverse impact on the situation of indigenous communities. We work across nine states located within the Amazon forests. We have more than 160 languages spoken across the region. It is a challenge for us right now to protect the indigenous communities during the pandemic.
We are doing our utmost to combat disparities in access to the Internet and to digital services. We are doing you our best to support young people. Let's remember that we have 180 different indigenous peoples living in the Amazon region. Our organisation also includes a network of young activists who specialize in communication.
We organize a range of different events. For example, in August this year our female members organized and staged protests in Brazil to protest against the disparities that I have just mentioned.
We have to make sure that we are involved in all of the decisions taken today.
>> MODERATOR: I think we are going to see the video next.
>> ALANA MANCHINERI: Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Alana, for sharing the video illustrating so much of the work that you and your community has done. We have applause in the room for you. I don't know if you can hear. I just want to make sure you know. Thank you so much. We have a few questions for you in a little bit, but I'm going to go next to Sharad Sharma.
You are a cartoonist and founder of the world comics network, and you have worked both in print and electronic media over a decade, but very much using a grassroots movement to use comics as an alternative to communicate especially in local languages. I find it fascinating and I can't wait for everyone to hear from you and also learning from your experience. So please tell us how have you engaged with your communities in a digital environment through different local languages in your country? And welcome to the session.
>> SHARAD SHARMA: Thank you very much, Sonia. It's wonderful to hear all of the wonderful speakers from across the globe. I started as a political cartoonist myself, and I used to work in press, first in print media and later on in television. What I realized that the stories are very much limited to the power centers.
The stories are very much concerned to the noisy minorities, and it is silent minority is not getting the due space and credit both in media and also in the policy documents. So what was really important to get the voices from the margins and also how to document those voices and let the policy makers, let the people in the power centers to hear those voices and also make some real difference in their life.
So what we did being a political cartoonist what you can do, how you can really contribute, that was a major question, and what we did, we started like traveling to the different part of the country across the length and breadth of this country, and the people mostly living in the northeast part of the country in the tribal belt, they speak very different languages.
And the people, those who have no access to, I'm talking about 15, 20 years back, no access to mainstream press. Press was very much limited to the state capitals. All of these voices were not even heard by the mainstream or the regional press or newspapers, print media. With the invention of the Internet, it's a new medium, it’s a more democratized platform.
I think over the period of time what we realized is that people are becoming the consumer of the information, and they are not creating content in the first place, and that is very unfortunate in a way that is still the same sort of people who used to dominate in the conventional press, they are still dominating in the Internet spaces.
When we say what is the multilingual Internet spaces, it doesn't mean that you provide your website in Pindi or English or two or three major languages, but it is more about how to get the voices of the people, of the majority of the people, or the people who really matters in each and every region, their voices, how to do you mean them.
And it's not merely about tokenism. It isn't simply providing translation or transliteration within the website or in the Government website, but it's more about getting the voices of the people in their own languages. One of the ways we did, because we started using the comics, the grassroots comics as a communication tool. We thought that each and every person can tell a story.
They have plenty of stories and issues to share. The only thing lacking was a medium. So we started going to the people and assisting them that how they can document their part of the stories. And please remember that this is a country where you travel 40, 50‑kilometer and people speak very different language everywhere. The states are linguistically divided. So each and every basis people started were participants of our target audience, they used to tell their local stories in local languages.
So the audience, the creator of the content to the audience against everything was very local and the process we did initially was black and white format, photocopy format so that resources are not a big hindrance there. So people used to produce their local content. They used to photocopy it and they used to distribute it locally.
So the local issues used to get their due attention locally everywhere, and once the issue was distributed locally, ministry media was forced to document all of the stories. But with the advent of the Internet we realized how to document these voices, how people will come forward and they will also start applauding.
Because most of the them are using and 80% of the population in India, they use Internet through their mobile devices. So they are not simply, they don't have a high band width most of the time or even they don't have sometimes the power connection or the electricity to charge their devices, maybe they are getting the Internet connectivity.
So the connectivity is a very, very loose term in the a way that you are connecting, but not able to charge your device, and you can't create your content, you are not able to upload it. So I think that's a depriving them from basic human rights and we have experienced this during the time of COVID when most of the people with the high bandwidth, they used to get access of and enroll in the vaccination, and most of the people living even in the capital city like in Delhi, they are not able to dean enroll for their vaccination.
So we can see these kinds of things happening across the section, across the country. So how the medium, we are not only just like simply providing consolation or alternative language or text available. That is not really sufficient. What is really required to have more and more localized content, more and more people should come forward and document their stories, upload and occupy that space. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you so much. That's really interesting. I just want to make sure I didn't miss anything. Are you going to share any slides or we are not? Okay. I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything with the technical team.
This is wonderful! Thank you to Alana. Is Alana still online, I want to make sure we didn't lose her. Great.
We have a few questions for both of you, and Raquel will help with questions that may be on line from the participants. I wanted to start actually with Alana. Both of you talked about story telling as such an important element of what multilingualism and using different languages has facilitated but in the case of Alana, movement building which I think it interesting for communities to be involved online and to use online tools in a way that is useful to them.
So Alana, I wanted to start with you. I was wondering if you could share with all of us what are some of the techniques and strategies that women and youth in your community use with digital technology to not only facilitate movement building, but also knowledge sharing to be able to be connected and support each other. I'm especially interested in something that you shared with me before that I would like you to share with everyone around, it's not just about the written language, but it's also about oral, verbal and voice stories.
So tell us a bit about that. And then we will go to Sharad. Thank you.
>> ALANA MANCHINERI: Of course, thanks for asking this question.
Our organisation is developing resources and materials, but we do not only rely on the written language. We also rely on the oral language. Let's remember that in our region, in the Amazon region, there is a huge diversity of indigenous peoples. We have 180 different groups, and these indigenous groups boost a culture which is largely based on oral tradition. That's why we want to do our best to support native languages.
At the same time, we are trying to support and help indigenous people to communicate with the outside world, so we work with the indigenous peoples, but at the same time, we want to help them to communicate with the outside world.
We are also engaged in political activity of sorts. I would like to tell you that communication is a tool that we use in political activity. So I'm not only referring to communication in the general sense. That's why we are doing our best to prepare women and to prepare young people through communication to be able to be active in the field of politics.
Portuguese is the main language that is used in the country. So we introduce solutions for people who would like to communicate in the official languages of the UN. In my region, 31 indigenous languages are spoken, which attests to this great diversity that we have in the country.
If you compare French to Portuguese, you will see that there are huge differences between the two, but if you compare the 30 plus indigenous languages, you will also see striking differences between them. People tend to think that indigenous languages are all the same, but that is not the case.
So that is my point of view, that is our point of view. We want to engage with young people in our activities.
>> MODERATOR: It's such a complex system of keeping communication alive as well, which I'm hearing you, and I'm thinking here we are at IGF trying to communicate amongst all of us online, offline, you know, here in the room, and we have challenges on a day‑to‑day basis your communities have a multitude of challenges that we cannot even imagine, and I think movement and you as a leader of your community are facilitating not only communication, but facilitating people's livelihoods through allowing them to be able to not only use their language but communicate with others in new ways.
So thank you for sharing that. It's so interesting to learn from you. And Sharad Sharma, one of the things as I was listening to Alana, you are using a tool, another mechanism, another strategy through comics and storytelling to not only allow people to have those stories and to create their own, to share their own stories, but to create new content, right?
And so I wanted to ask you about that before we go to the audience questions. In what ways do you, have you seen that the ability of creating that content has also increased the interest, the motivation of other communities to do the same, to replicate those experiences as they see their peers starting to share some of these very rich history and way to communicate amongst themselves?
>> SHARAD SHARMA: This was a campaign to address the next half billion. Who is the next half billion? They are people who are forced to use the Internet with mobile devices because of the lockdown and this huge population, they have no such understanding of technology. One, most of these people are not educated. Most of the content is available only in English, and they're going children or somebody, their neighbor who also have very important information.
So what is happening once they have some financial problem or some issue with hacking with their devices, mobile or laptop or anything, they losing Internet, they started by going to people and asking them to document their story.
Each and every connector is telling their story and sharing their mobile experiences. Most of the people are not agreeing to attend online classes. That's a big, huge divide that's happening still in the country.
The second is about how beautifully, the positive side, how beautifully they started learning so many things through YouTube videos and so on. And multiple things they are doing. But one of the stories created by this very young girl, it was very interesting that how she was only in private school, and once she was enrolled in one of the programmes, she started going to the community and she started helping them to fill out the pension form, and how to get the access to the distribution system and so on.
So that is very, very interesting how people who are very limited education and also very limited information about the Internet, they are also beautifully using Internet for the benefit of the larger society, and that is a very positive side of this campaign. The backdrop of you can see there are people who are creating, these are people helping refugees and the refugees created stories in local languages and these stories are also resonating in digital spaces so these are the communities who are feeling that maybe they don't have the ability to tell a story, but still they can communicate using this powerful tool of grassroots.
So this is what is really happening in these spaces.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for that. I think that reminds me of a saying that technology is only good when it's really for the people, right, when it works for people for what this need, and I think what you just shared with us is a perfect example of that, it's technology that is meaningful and really serves a purpose to improve people's lives, however, they decide that that improvement takes place.
So thank you for that. I just have to apologize to you because I think there was some confusion about some slides or a video that you had., and I don't know if it's possible to share now, but it may be that later on in the session we will be able to pull them up. So I just wanted to tell you, we are aware of it, but we were having some technical issues from the stage and the rest of the technical team, so I just want you to know we did not forgot, but we are trying to see if we can make it happen.
So this is really wonderful. Thank you, Alana and Sharad, really great to hear from you. I'm going to pass on to my co‑moderator, Sylvia Cadena, that you have met, many of you met in the session before. Sylvia is Co‑Chair Policy Network on Meaningful Access with me, and she is also a Director at APNIC, very active woman in our digital development space. Many of you know her. I will pass it on to her to moderate the next session, and she will introduce that to you. Thank you, Sylvia. On to you.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Gracias, Sonia. And thank you very much for promoting me. I am Head of Programs of the APNIC Foundation, very happy to join you remotely from brace pain Australia so it's a little after 1:00 a.m. for me so my apologies for me if I voice sounds a little bit croaky. I have the pleasure to moderate the next block that is going to talk about, to focus on universal acceptance and in this block, we have three amazing speakers that will be sharing with us from their perspective about how, you know, after Sharad and Alana have shared with us these great experiences about why we do what we do, all of the effort that goes into making the Internet work and efforts around affordability, efforts around connectivity, efforts around measuring it, efforts around bringing the different languages in, this medium, this distribution channel for all of that local content is facilitated technically through a number of mechanisms.
And universal acceptance is one of those challenges. So with that I'm going to pass the microphone to Ram Mohan, the Chief Operating Officer of Afilias which is the second largest Internet domain name company in the world, as sold to the private equity form Ethos capital. Has over 20 years of experience in technology, leadership and entrepreneurship, and within both publicly listed and private companies, a cybersecurity expert. He co‑founded the security and stability Advisory Committee for the Internet which provides advice on trends to Internet infrastructure and he has served on the ICANN board for many years as the inventor of 17 U.S. patents for his work on Internet technology and he is a wonderful human being. Welcome. Please over to you.
>> RAM MOHAN: It's a pleasure and honour to be a part of this session, speaking about a meaningful access to the Internet for those of us who connected and those who are going to be connected.
When so much of the world's communities communicate with each other and between each other in their own languages, why is it that we must use the ASCII script to use the Internet, to navigate the Internet. It didn't make sense to me. It doesn't make sense anymore.
And it's really not for lack of technology, nor is it for lack of desire, or for lack of effort. So the ability of the world to use their own languages on the Internet, on the Domain Name System, the technology exists for it clearly because all of us communicate with each other in our own languages. We have some bridge languages, English certainly is one of them, but we have so much of our culture, our dreams are in our languages. Our dreams ought to be communicatable also on the Internet in our own languages.
Now, if we want to do that, the foundation for all of that is this idea that I have been calling universal acceptance. It's a phrase that I coined in 2001 when I discovered that website and emails just would not accept my email address. I had an email address that ended in dot Info and information stands for information in 37 languages in the world except on the Internet.
Info stood on the information at that time for your email is unrecognized. Info stood on the Internet at that time for your email is going to bounce. Info stood for we cannot register yourself on this website because we don't recognize this domain name. And then a few years nearer we started to bring local languages in various identities on the Internet, and the problem only became worse.
Websites said, I don't know why you are writing something from right to left. Did you not know that on the Internet, everything must be written from left to right? We know that that's not the truth, but there were programmes and systems and applications on the Internet that really had not made the switch to say that the languages of the world and the people of the world who use these languages, the Internet has to adapt to make sure that all of the people of the world and the languages that they speak, that it will be able to accommodate all of that.
So that, my friends, is really what universal acceptance is, the acceptance of your languages, your scripts on the Domain Name System in a way so that you actually don't even recognize that there is a technology called the Internet that is standing in the way of your communication, standing in the way of your connectivity.
So in a few years ago, I created a global nonprofit group called the universal acceptance steering group, and that was an idea to bring together industry, academia, civil society, regulators to solve this problem of universal acceptance. It's not a technology problem.
It's not a problem of desire not being existing. It's not a problem of lack of effort. It's actually a problem of making sure that the Internet's systems, the websites, the applications, the apps, all of those systems make the necessary changes to recognize finally that the people of the world require, in fact the people of the world demand that their languages be accessible and their identity finally have a role on the global Internet that we all come to depend upon every day.
So that really is the foundation of universal acceptance. Thank you.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Ram, I was going to say we are a little over time but thank you so much for wrapping it up so beautifully. I have a few questions for you, but I probably will move first to Daniel Fink and Maria and see how we go with questions from the audience as well. Daniel is our next speaker, Daniel Fink, he works at ICANN since 2014 and is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, so welcome to the session.
He acted as head of science and technology for the embassy of Brazil and holds Ph.D. in sciences from the Korea advanced institute of science and technology. He was the Executive Director of the initiative. So welcome, Daniel, to the stage.
>> DANIEL FINK: Thank you very much, Sylvia. Hello, everybody. Say hello to Sonia. It is an honour to be joining the session. We are founders of the universal acceptance efforts in ICANN. I will share with you what we are doing.
I was kindly invited by Roberto Zambrana, just to share what we did in our region, what other ICANN communities are doing for universal acceptance. I have an invitation for you in this session. Thank you so much.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: I'm sorry, Daniel, have you finished?
>> DANIEL FINK: Yes, waiting for the questions.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Okay. I thought you were going to give your remarks first, or you want to just dive into the dialogue? I'm okay either way. I'm sorry, I'm just following the run sheet and I don't see that. My apologies.
>> DANIEL FINK: Just waiting for your questions. No worries. Thank you.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Okay. Well, in that regard, could you please share with us which are the initiatives and activities that ICANN is working on to support the multilingual Internet and what are the opportunities for collaboration that you envision?
>> DANIEL FINK: Okay. Thank you so much.
Well, since 2015 thanks to Ram and other stakeholders from ICANN we have this beautiful group promoting the acceptance of Internet addresses and emails on all of the systems which is the universal acceptance group.
From my view as ICANN staff it's easy to falling off for this project because the challenge is really huge, and the opportunity to engage with several new community members, developers, everybody who runs the system of the information, to make sure to be adapted to support these new addresses that run not just dot info, but scripts in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, so it's a huge effort that we have. ICANN has included that in its strategic plan to support from 2021 to 2025, so for us it's a huge priority and we are collecting efforts beyond our remits to reach out, teach, engage, connect to experts to everybody who runs the system and needs to update, to prepare for the new modern identifiers that we are preparing. And when I mean identifiers, I mean specifically these identifiers who will support multilingualism on the Internet.
I like to say during our speeches here, like, have a reflection. So what if Internet was invented in India, example? And we wouldn't have all of the browsers, everything, in something different than our Latin script. So think about. This is the importance, so many countries that we talk that use the Latin script, it's natural in our region we also tell them, hey, you should prepare for your future customers that we will have in Chinese, and if you are not prepared you may lose business at first.
And, second, we should be ready to talk with people in their own languages and this is very important. So many good things to happen and we are open.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Daniel. One last question, and I would like to ask you to be brief, what will you think is the one biggest challenge for ICANN to achieve that ICANN identifies to achieve the multilingual Internet?
>> DANIEL FINK: I think the system is very focused on Internet. So we are DNS people. So we like IP numbers, we like DNS servers and historically we don't worry Java developers, PHP developers, database developers and things like that. However now is the time to talk with them.
Now is the time to engage with them, and share with them what they should do to prepare their systems. So then it comes the great work of universal acceptance steering group preparing documents, best practices, training to make it easy for them to adapt. So it's a global effort. It's very challenging because we mostly need to talk with everybody from companies from all sizes, developers from all over the world, but many good news. For example Mr. Zava Morrice sitting in Poland is one of the greatest experts of universal acceptance.
Say hello to everybody there. So if you have any questions you can talk with them. We work from 2017, Zava started doing research on acceptance in Brazil. Now, he is helping other countries, and the good news I have to tell you is we are preparing a great training with our community of Internet users in North America. So we will have four sessions, long sessions, technical sessions starting from January that will share in the share in the chat if you are interested to learn to prepare your system, please enjoy the training in English. The instructor is from Pakistan. I will put the link in the chat.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you very much.
I would like to move to our last speaker. Maria Kolesnikova, chief analyst of the coordination Center for the TLD that manages the dot RU domain name. Maria has been a manager since October 2011. The company manages Russia's national domains including dot RU and the dot RU in Russian, which I can't say. Prior to that, Maria had been the head of marketing department since she first joined the company in 2007 and has a great experience in telecommunications and sales.
Maria, we are lucky to have you. I have a few questions for you. I would like to give you a couple of minutes to do your initial remarks, and then I will hit you with a couple of questions and we will go back to Ram for one last couple of questions, please.
>> MARIA KOLESNIKOVA: So thank you so much. I am Maria Kolesnikova, I am representing the coordination Center for TLD, dot R you and dot RF. It means Russian Federation, and, yes, we are required a long time connected with their issues on Internationalized Domain Names and email addresses on the Internet and the evaluation of our Internet to go from the ASCII to Unicode one. So lots of experience and practice. Thank thanks a lot.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you. I was wondering if you could share more about what has the Government has done to promote Russian language content and domains increasing availability and better access locally? Would you mind to share a little bit of that?
>> MARIA KOLESNIKOVA: Yes, of course. I would say that, yes, ten years ago when we had launched the domain name we get high level support from our Government and our President at the time, and there was the high level support through the delegation processes by ICANN and IANA, and the promotional campaign all over the country, so now this Government continues to support domain names. They use it for the official websites, for example during the pandemic period, the main official website to inform Russian citizens on the situation with COVID‑19 was addressed by the Dutch domain name.
So all of the official state bodies, they have the website data in their Russian language so the content of almost all of our are in Russian language. This is the official language of the country and most are addressed with dot Rev domain name as well. So it is second on the road by the number of registered domains and 70% of them are in real use to address websites and E‑mail addresses.
I would say that access Internet, access is the main issue, and in our country we have quite a high level of Internet access, about 75% of Internet penetration. So we, it covers around 124 million Internet users in the country. And we spend online about seven hours a day on average.
Our children can start to use Internet since two years old actually. I think this is the great base for this, but we still have national programmes in place to increase accessibility so Governments are working in connection of the social importance of hospitals, medical centers, schools, and so the locations where can live only up to 100 persons.
So they still continue to increase it, and from the other hand, they have new initiative last year. They initiated, they providing the free Internet access for some Internet resources. It means you shouldn't pay through your telecom or mobile operator for access to the websites and online services. This is mostly Government services, but some are really popular online services for citizens, and, of course, this resources addressed by Russian TLD domain names in their own Russian language. Yes.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Maria. Sorry to cut you short. This will bring me back to the question that I want also to ask to Ram at the beginning about what, and all of you actually, what do you guys think that all of the TLDs and regulators could do to encourage local content and local language access and what other sort of partnerships or collaborations do you think are important at a national level to try to preserve many of the languages that were mentioned on the first intervention by the doctor from UNESCO that addressed this at the beginning.
So, Ram, over to you.
>> RAM MOHAN: This is a place where regulators can do a great deal. And I have an idea that regulators that are participating in the IGF and are listening in to think about. What if you in your procurement contracts, in the various procurement components that you have, have a piece that says that organisations or companies that are UA ready will have a preference that you will allocate some level of extra points or extra consideration for organisations aren't there already.
I posit to you that something like that, a small change at the regulatory level, especially when it comes to procurement, is likely to prompt a dramatic increase in universal acceptance and universe aal access to multilingual content on the Internet.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Ram, wondering if there is any reaction from Daniel or Maria. I don't see your video, so I can't tell.
>> MARIA KOLESNIKOVA: I can share my opinion. I would suggest to Governments and or other entities or interested parties to use ID in the main names and internationalize emails themselves so they can feel better the user experience and face the problems that they have now.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: That's excellent advice. Daniel, yourself?
>> DANIEL FINK: I fully agree with Maria and Ram just to add that we have a Working Group within the Government Advisory Committee in ICANN, so all of your Governments already have representatives on this group, and for sure you have people to reach out to learn more about universal acceptance and how to follow the recommendations from Ram. Thank you.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Daniel.
I was part of one IDN Committee back when I was pregnant trying to bring Spanish into the picture. My son just graduated high school, so 18 years on and we are still talking about it.
So it’s still, it's not there yet in many places. So I don't know. It takes time as Daniel really said it very clearly. It's not lack of love, lack of attention, lack of interest. It's just a collection of challenges and you really make me think about what will happen if the inventions come from different places, like you said, what if the Internet was invented in India, then we will be having a completely different conversation around what's going on. That connects very powerfully with some of the comments that were made in the previous session that you were not with us on the Policy Network for meaningful access where a lot of the speakers were talking about how important it is to connect to something from which you draw meaning and languages are part of our identity and express who we are, our needs, just as powerful as Alana shared from her experience in the Amazon, and the experiences from Sharad in India for people that are in a lot of cases illiterate and that can use drawings to express their frustrations, their needs and their aspirations to cartoons ‑‑ through cartoons.
So when I started working on Internet development, it was only text. So that was a thing. And there was no images that could be transmitted. It was amazing efforts trying to explain in a limited number of characters because we were paying by the character to upload and download, so it was more expensive to group load than to download, to explain what we were seeing to a farmer in Colombia, to a farmer in India, and exchange that information of what was going on with the cows or techniques that they needed to practice, and how much the power of images and the power of how you interpret yourself through your culture comes from the words that you are able to express.
For me speaking Spanish and not enough coffee almost at 2:00 in the morning, Spanish is starting to show up many my brain, so I will probably not even attempt to summarize all of the brilliant comments from Doreen, from Maria, Daniel, Ram, just to thank everyone for their participation and try to check with Raquel if maybe we have any questions from the chat or questions in the room. I don't see the room, so I'm not sure if there is anyone on the microphone over there waiting to ask a question or if anyone wants to type something in the chat.
>> RAQUEL GATTO: Hi, Sylvia. First of all, thank you very much for being with us until 2:00 a.m. I hope you can get your deserved rest pretty soon. Let me introduce myself, I'm Raquel Gatto, supporting the PMA and UMAC main sessions. Let me look at the room and see if there are any questions. We do have support to bring you the microphone. There is one in the back, the lady in pink. There is one just, can I take this one first, and then? Yes. We have two questions.
>> ANDRISE BASS: Thank you for the opportunity. My name is Andrise Bass. I want to know how the digital, since we are trying to put everything in this perspective into languages, how we can use the Internet to promote peace, the global peace we all wanted?
>> RAQUEL GATTO: Thank you very much for the question. I'm going to take the one in the back and then we go back to the speakers who want to comment on that. And we have a question here from the stage from Giacomo. Can you introduce yourself, please.
>> MARY UDUMA: Thank you very much. My name is Mary Uduma. Okay. My question is how do we implement multilingualism in IGF meetings because I'm just coming from a session that somebody was speaking in French. We couldn't, we couldn't understand, and when we speak in English, the French participants would not understand.
Can we start from Jerusalem according to the holy books? Let's make it happen in IGF so we translate our meetings, our programmes, our sessions, and also allow anybody that wants to hold a workshop in their own language to do so.
That's my question. I think we need to address that if we will continue to have meaningful meetings so that some participants will not just come here and roam around and go without knowing what we are doing. Thank you.
>> RAQUEL GATTO: Thank you so much, Mary. I'm so sorry, my dear friend Mary that I couldn't recognize, part is the mask, part is my bad vision.
Thank you very much. And we do have a third question from Giacomo Mazzone who is here on stage.
>> GIACOMO MAZZONE: Yes, my question is to the panelist because it has been proposed that institution will use IDNs for their public communication. That's very good. One of the main problems we have with the domain name is that if you apply for a domain name in IDN. This is a separate question and request than if you apply for the same name in another IDN system. So this complicates life enormously. While I think that for the next round would be very useful if you, when you apply for one set of language, you can apply for the same domain in all of the sets of languages eventually.
>> RAQUEL GATTO: Thank you very much, Giacomo, for stepping in to be my partner here at stage. So Sylvia, I don't know if you got the three questions. We had one question about peace, how can we bring also peace to the Internet, the question about the sessions, the other sessions in the IGF that need to also bring multilingualism, and that one I can also offer perhaps that it go be a call to action within this session.
And then Giacomo's questions on the next round and how to include the IDNs. Thank you very much.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you for your help with the questions on site. Really appreciate it. I'm not sure if Sharad and Alana have cameras off. I don't know if they would like to have a stab at any of the questions, but I will give the floor probably, you know, to ‑‑ I know Alana, no, Alana is not. I was hoping that Alana was around to talk a little bit of peace in the Amazon. I think she made a couple of very strong comments on her intervention, but if she is not logged in at the moment, probably not.
>> SHARAD SHARMA: I can for sure. Yes, so what we have been doing in the media literacy especially, we realize ‑‑ literacy, we realize that with excess use of Whatsapp and Facebook and social media platforms there is lots of misinformation is being spread across the country, and in the last few years in fact in the last decade, we have been experiencing a number of change, a conflict that is happening because of the misinformation, malinformation, fake news and so on.
And people without even cross checking the source of the information, they are forwarding this information. Most of the people, even the educated people who think it's okay because they are living in the so called equal chambers and they think that whatever the information is coming since it is coming from somebody they know about or somebody they can rely on or because they think the person is their relative or somebody who is in a good position, but people are not realizing the basic fact that they should go to the reliable website or reliable resources. It happened during COVID time as well as during the conflict which is happening in different parts of the country or across the globe.
So what I think is the best thing what we can do to conquer the conflict and to restore peace that how to really educate people about how to consume the information, how to rely on the source of information, how to cross check the information, and that, that is possible only if you could embed this into the school curriculum, into the college curriculum and make it part of the school people, how to reach out to larger population which is using Internet so vitally without any restriction and without any checks and balances.
That, I think, that is why it's going to be a lot in the coming days.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Coming from a country that has been at war since before I was born I will give a couple more minutes to the questions about peace because I think it is what is the most important thing in the world. I would like to have contrasting view to that, so, Ram, if you are online to give us a little bit of that conversation from the technical side, that would be great. Thank you.
>> RAM MOHAN: Thank you. That was such an insightful question. If you look at peace as the presence of harmony then what we actually find is that the languages of the world are not yet in harmony where the Internet is, and that really is a big part of why efforts like universal acceptance make a big difference, because that is an effort to bring harmony to the world's languages and to the way the people of the world express themselves to make that come together on the Internet.
And once you have that, then perhaps you can begin conversations which then hopefully lead us to the path of peace.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Ram, very powerful words. I would like to follow up with a question from Giacomo around registering different languages at once, and that would go to Maria and Daniel in trying to figure out how that goes. Please, Daniel.
>> DANIEL FINK: Thank you. Yes, exactly. Thank you for this question, and as you know at this time we are working on a second round of new utilities including IDNs, so this topic is a really good discussion we are having, and let's see how the new applications guide book comes out and for this problem because we had the first round and we took time to launch a second one just because we wanted to make sure to evaluate all of the issues, all of the suggestions for improvement and this is what we, not we just as an organisation, but ICANN as a community is preparing now for the next round that we will be launching in the coming years. I will get back to you with the specific question once we have a decision. Waiting to hear from Maria as well.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Maria, over to you.
>> MARIA KOLESNIKOVA: This is really a hard question because it concerns all of the registries, actually, so if they can agree between themselves to make such a prevent in registrations or stop lists in their registries. So I don't think we have the decision right now, but from the other side, I actually don't think it has some great sense, because so all day IDNs, they are mostly for the local markets actually, so if you see they are very popular on local markets and for special communities that speak on that language.
So that is clear for them what they mean and there's not a big sense to use the IDN in other, I don't know, languages as well. So why you don't need to use it. So you have your, in your local language for your local website. That's enough, I think.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Maria. I don't know if anyone else would like to try to answer the question from my dear Maria, Mary Uduma, but I probably want to say that walking the talk is very difficult. Trying to live what we preach is very complicated, and sometimes we make compromises and sometimes those compromises take very long for communities to stay away from those compromises and be more inclusive.
And languages are a thing just when we were preparing for this particular session, trying to make sure that Alana's powerful presentation was in a language she was comfortable speaking, I want to congratulate her for speaking in Spanish although her native language is Portuguese and we were trying to figure out how that would work and she did beautifully. But it's a challenge that different people face in different times, but it tells us about what is, who designed this.
And I think that goes back to the comment from Daniel about what will happen if the technology is designed in a different place. And maybe that also probably connects with ideas around supporting local innovation and trying to support local solutions where people that understand the language and the needs of a particular community can come up with ways to represent it in the devices, in the platforms, the systems, and the services that connect us to the Internet.
So I think we have five minutes left, so, Raquel, if there are other questions in the room or if any of the session organizers would like to say a few words at the end. I can see Susan is still with us. So Susan if you would like to say a few words, I don't know, I can't see the room. So I'm not sure if there is anyone on the microphone, but I really want to acknowledge everyone that has gone through the wariness of a hybrid event and survive it and we get a golden sticker at the end. Susan, over to you.
>> SUSAN CHALMERS: Thank you kindly, Sylvia. This has been a tremendous session, thank you for co‑moderating with Sonia and thank you Raquel and everybody, all of the panelists who have joined us today and all of the speakers, I just thought to maybe share, you know, Secretariat has asked us to prepare a few key takeaways from the session, so I have been taking notes so I thought perhaps I could share.
I'm sorry, rural connectivity issues. So unfortunately, I can hear myself. There we go, that's better. So I think it's Doreen highlighted that multilingualism has been an issue, well, identifies as an important issue since the Tunis Agenda and WSIS in 2005. We cannot have a digital society that is inclusive if people cannot communicate in their own languages.
Alana and Sharad had extremely important and powerful messages, and then I ‑‑
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Seems we lost Susan again.
>> SUSAN CHALMERS: Living on a farm. But I think I appreciated Ram's establishing the connection between the importance of developing local content and universal acceptance as the kind of the foundational technical underpinning that can enable delivery of that content and can facilitate a multilingual Internet. So before I cut off again, hello to all of our colleagues in Poland. Thank you for joining us and, again, thank you to our co‑moderators and our wonderful speakers today.
>> SYLVIA CADENA: Thank you, Susan. Thank you, everyone. I think we did okay with time. I hope that the report and all of the additional information that will be shared later will continue to nurture this conversation.
As long as these languages live and as long as we try to preserve them with the technology and the work that we do to make the Internet ours, we will have a better and a multilingual Internet. So thank you very much for joining us and for your wonderful interventions from all of the speakers and the questions from the floor. Thank you, Raquel for all of your support, and so see you later. Bye.
>> RAQUEL GATTO: Thank you, everyone.