IGF 2023 Town Hall #75 Multilingual Internet: a Key Catalyst for Access & Inclusion

Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (05:45 UTC) - Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (06:45 UTC)
WS 5 – Room B-2

Skills Building for Basic and Advanced Technologies (Meaningful Access)

Round Table - 60 Min


Access to the Internet is now essential for socio-economic activities, including education, employment, healthcare, and social interactions. Those who face barriers to access are at a significant disadvantage, which can lead to further economic and social marginalization. Multilingual support is one such significant barrier that impacts the billions of users and potential users who communicate in their native languages and scripts. UNESCO has been raising the importance and need for adoption of multilingualism in cyberspace since 2003. To bridge the digital divide and foster digital inclusion, ICANN has worked with the technical and script communities to internationalize the domain name system. This allows the internet’s address (or domain name) to also be able to be represented in local languages, to promote easier access to local language content online. However, the technology deployed still has to catch up to this progress to allow for digital inclusion for the multilingual communities globally. ICANN has launched the Universal Acceptance (UA) initiative to ensure all domain names can be used by all Internet-enabled applications, devices, and systems. Following from the discussion during the UA session at the WSIS Forum 2023, this interactive Town Hall session will follow-up on why multilingual Internet is a key catalyst for digital access and inclusion and what are the existing efforts to address it. Speakers will also share their expert views on the current gaps and challenges that need to be addressed for achieving UA, and how different stakeholders need to play a role in enabling an open, accessible, meaningful and inclusive multilingual Internet.

ICANN and UNESCO have extensive experience in conducting hybrid meetings, allowing for effective participation and interaction from both onsite and online participants. We are dedicated to ensuring an inclusive and engaging session that maximizes the experience for all attendees. Here's how we will achieve this: Skilled moderators: Our experienced moderators will be well-versed in managing hybrid meetings and creating opportunities for active participation from both onsite and online participants. They will facilitate discussions, encourage contributions, and ensure that all voices are heard and valued. Carefully planned format: We will meticulously design the session's format and flow to optimize the experience for all attendees. Presentations and discussions will be structured in a concise and impactful manner, allowing for meaningful contributions from both onsite and online participants. Ample time will be allocated for sharing perspectives, insights, and engaging in constructive dialogue. Inclusive roundtable discussion: Given the roundtable format of this session, our aim is to foster a genuine discussion among the participating organizations. We will create an environment that encourages open exchange of ideas, encourages collaboration, and facilitates consensus-building. All stakeholders will have equal opportunities to contribute, ensuring a comprehensive and diverse dialogue. Through these measures, we seek to ensure that our hybrid session provides a seamless and enriching experience for all participants. By leveraging our expertise in conducting successful hybrid meetings, we are confident in delivering a session that promotes active engagement, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration among stakeholders.


Jia- Rong Low, ICANN, Technical, Asia-Pacific States Justine Chew, Advocate & Solicitor, Private Sector, Asia- Pacific States Vera Major, ICANN, Technical, WEOG


Edmon Chung, ICANN Board Member, Technical, Asia-Pacific States 
Theresa Swinehart, ICANN, Technical, WEOG
Nodumo Dhlamini, AAU, Civil Society, Africa

Onsite Moderator

Jia-Rong Low

Online Moderator

Yien-Chyn Tan


Vera Major



Targets: 9.1: Several of the multilingual Internet initiatives aim to develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient Internet infrastructure to support economic development and equitable access for all. 9.c: A multilingual Internet will significantly increase access to information and communication technologies. For example, the Universal Acceptance (UA) is an initiative that will provide the gateway to the next billion Internet users. 17.6: Multilingual Internet requires the cooperation from regional and international stakeholders on access to technology and innovation, and share knowledge on mutually agreed terms. 17.9: Several of the multilingual Internet initiatives will support capacity-building in countries, especially in developing countries that do not use English as the dominant language.