When Universal acceptance meets Digital inclusion – WS 06 2023
21 June 2023 | 12:15 - 13:15 EEST | Auditorium A1 | |
Consolidated programme 2023 overview / Workshop 6
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As the world races to connect the next billion, indigenous communities in Europe and worldwide face unique accessibility challenges ranging from connectivity, to language barriers due to the lack of universal acceptance of their Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). How can stakeholders help achieve a digital transformation that offers and promotes cultural and linguistic diversity to ensure meaningful access and full participation for all?
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The interconnectedness of multilingualism, digital transformation, and indigenous languages is more important today than ever before. The impact of digital tools, content, and processes on indigenous languages is profound, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Integrating native languages into digital spaces is essential for the preservation and revitalization of cultural heritage. Creating digital tools that support indigenous languages, such as language keyboards, translation and other apps, and voice recognition systems can enable indigenous communities to communicate, express themselves, and interact with the digital world in their native tongues. This promotes linguistic diversity, reinforces cultural identity, and guarantees the survival of indigenous languages in the digital era.
However, there are significant obstacles to overcome. The limited availability of digital content in indigenous languages hinders indigenous communities' access to information and knowledge. Promoting inclusivity and representation offers yet another challenge to develop and curate digital content that reflects indigenous cultures, histories, and perspectives. Not least the narrow definition of Universal Acceptance (UA) also offers a bottleneck on its own merit. UA aims to include a wide range of languages and scripts, nevertheless, there might be certain scripts or languages that are not adequately supported or standardized yet.
Involving indigenous communities in the development and localization of digital processes and tools is crucial for ensuring their applicability, efficiency, and suitability. Collaboration between linguists, technologists, private companies, governments, International Organizations, and indigenous communities can result in the creation of digital solutions that are culturally sensitive and contextually appropriate, thus meeting the requirements and aspirations of indigenous language speakers.
The primary objectives of this workshop are to:
- Discuss the significance of promoting indigenous languages in the digital era for the attainment of sustainable development goals.
- Discuss the context of indigenous languages vis-à-vis digital inclusion, primarily focusing on UA, digital products, and services for indigenous communities.
- Raise awareness regarding the significance of digital inclusion for the promotion of indigenous languages.
- Determine the key opportunities and obstacles associated with digital inclusion and attaining universal acceptance.
- Identify potential solutions and initiatives to support the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages and to promote the use of the IDN special character.
- Develop a roadmap for UA in Europe and beyond.
Please try out new interactive formats. EuroDIG is about dialogue not about statements, presentations and speeches. Workshops should not be organised as a small plenary.
The panel will comprise of 4-minute “keynotes” followed by a series of 3 Minute statements from experts with relevant knowledge or experience on digital inclusion and/or UA. These shared perspectives, ideas, and experiences on the subject will be fed into a free-flowing debate on the subject to share their insights, breakthroughs, and perspectives on digital inclusion in Europe and beyond.
Questions to be addressed:
- How is digital inclusion conceptualized in the International Decade for Indigenous Languages?
- Complexities associated with digital inclusion of the indigenous people?
- Is the current definition of UA adequate? Is there a need to expand this debate, beyond the current stakeholders?
- How to address the issue of acceptance of UA?
- Is the existing context of digital inclusion sufficient to address the need of the indigenous community, especially among those who are primarily responsible to draft policies on multilingualism, including that in cyberspace?
- Where does UA stand in the current debate on Internet governance?
- Are there any notable challenges or considerations specific to mobile applications and universal acceptance?
- Opening Statement: UNESCO (ADG/CI: Dr. Tawfik Jelassi, Video message) (4”)
- Views from the ground: Journalist (3”)
- Digital inclusion and UA through the lenses of UI and UX: Steve Poulson, Peloton Multilingual Programming Language / Marc Durdin, Keyman Initiative (3” each)
- Stakeholder perspectives on digital inclusion and Universal Acceptance and policies: Maarten Botterman, ICANN / Nigel Hickson, IGF(3” each)
- Discussion (30”)
- Conclusions by the moderator (3")
- The contributions needed to promote indigenous languages in the digital era are identified.
- Policy and practical challenges and opportunities associated with attaining digital inclusion and universal acceptance for indigenous people are identified.
- Prospective initiatives and solutions to promote digital inclusion and UA to support the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages identified.
Links to relevant websites, declarations, books, documents. Please note we cannot offer web space, so only links to external resources are possible. Example for an external link: Main page of EuroDIG
- Los Pinos declaration
- UNESCO’s 2003 Recommendation on concerning the promotion and use of Multilingualism in the cyberspace
- The Global Action Plan for the Decade
- Universal Acceptance (UA)
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- Minda Moreira
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- Amali De Silva-Mitchell
- Roberto Gaetano
- Alberto Masini
- Dušan Stojičević
- Rajinder Jhol
- Nigel Hickson
- Sarmad Hussain
- Richard Delmas
- Steve Poulson
- David Castillo
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- Dr Tawfik Jelassi UNESCO ADG/CI Opening Statement, Video message
- Sara Kelemeny, Yle Sápmi, Finnish broadcasting company, Sámi department
- Steve Poulson, Peloton Multilingual Programming Language
- Marc Durdin, Keyman Initiative
- Maarten Botterman, ICANN
- Nigel Hickson, IGF
- Roberto Gaetano
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Preserving indigenous languages needs innovating Multilingual approaches in digital content and user interfaces to promote equitable access to digital services. This includes providing digital services in indigenous languages to ensure the participation and engagement of indigenous communities. By embracing linguistic diversity, digital transformation becomes more inclusive, empowering marginalized communities. Digital platforms facilitate the preservation and sharing of indigenous knowledge and enable indigenous communities to be active participants in the digital economy. Advancements in language technologies and localization efforts further enhance the accessibility and usability of indigenous languages in digital environments. Promoting linguistic diversity and valuing indigenous languages in the digital era contribute to cultural preservation and inclusive development. Even though digital technologies can aid in promoting the use and preservation of indigenous languages, the lack of standardization and Universal Acceptance of these languages in the digital ecosystem also remains a significant obstacle. Promoting linguistic diversity and assuring that digital products and services are accessible to all users requires multilingualism. Especially for indigenous communities, the lack of multilingualism in the digital ecosystem can be a barrier to digital inclusion. Bearing in mind that the revitalization of Indigenous languages requires a sustained effort by Indigenous Peoples, Member States and the United Nations system, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recommended the UN General Assembly proclaim an International Decade on Indigenous Languages in 2019 (see E/C.19/2019/10, para 22). As recommended by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN General Assembly proclaimed in 2019 through Resolution A/74/396 the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032).
Achieving Universal Acceptance for indigenous languages – in its widest connotation – is a crucial step in fostering linguistic diversity in the digital ecosystem. Universal Acceptance is the capacity of a digital product or service to support all characters and scripts used across all languages and scripts. Due to the lack of standardization of writing systems and the limited resources available for the development of digital tools and services in these languages, however, achieving Universal Acceptance for indigenous languages presents unique obstacles.
It is important to promote digital inclusion, multilingualism, and Universal Acceptance in order to protect indigenous languages. Policies and regulations can significantly contribute to achieving these goals. Multistakeholder processes are needed to develop policies and regulations that support the development of digital tools and services in indigenous languages, encourage multilingualism in the digital ecosystem, and guarantee Universal Acceptance of these languages and scripts. Digital tools and services (UI and UX) can support the use and preservation of indigenous languages, promote multilingualism in the digital ecosystem, and guarantee Universal Acceptance of indigenous languages and scripts. Nevertheless, it is crucial to ensure that these tools and services are available, affordable, and user-friendly for all users.
Rapporteur: Francesco Vecchi, United Nations University – CRIS
- Multilingualism in cyberspace:
Multilingualism is a key issue for universal acceptance and digital inclusion. According to statistics, English is the Internet default language as it is embedded in the foundational blocks of databases and programming and it represents the absolute majority of content, while between 15 and 35% of the world population are left out of the digital dialogue. Preservation, promotion, and revitalisation of indigenous languages worldwide must then be fostered to let marginalised communities preserve their cultural heritage while fully participating in the digital age.
- Inclusion of indigenous languages
Finland has made huge efforts to provide digital content in Sami indigenous languages, covering information, media communication, digital learning, welfare bureaucracy, and soft public services. Moreover, internationalised domain names or IDNs have proliferated in recent times, but South Asia and the Sub Saharan region remain the least connected to the Internet. All in all, content is key to achieve Internet multilingualism and universal acceptance: having content in specific languages builds a market and represents a convincing reason for users to want to go in that specific domain.
First, to achieve universal acceptance it is necessary to adapt devices, keyboards, screens, tools and programming languages, as well as applications and contents to a real multilingual context. Second, huge investments are needed in intertranslatability and in promoting consumer choice and inclusivity by ensuring that domain names and email addresses work in all software applications. This process must be performed for and by the indigenous communities and its feasibility is linked to the current heterogeneity in connectivity, though a general overview is what is really missing.
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>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Hi, sorry, good afternoon, for those on site, and good morning, afternoon, evening for people joining remotely.
Let’s – I would like to start this session, and you have probably already seen the page for the session. So you know probably everything, but I will repeat that the title of this session is “When Universal Acceptance Meets Digital Inclusion.”
I will introduce the speakers as they come, and the – we will open this session with a message from UNESCO, that will introduce the topic and tell us what UNESCO is doing in this area.
This will be a video recording by Dr. Tawfik Jelassi. Sorry for bad pronunciation, and without further ado I think that we can start with this presentation. Thank you.
>> TAWFIK JELASSI: Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished participants, it’s a pleasure to address you at this workshop on reaching the new billion users in digital communications, digital inclusion, multilingualism and universal inclusion. The Internet has long been recognized as an effective tool for development, a source of information, and a gateway for goods and services.
It also provides a potential bridge to empower and amplify voices that have long within marginalized. An estimated 34% of the world’s population that is 2.7 billion people have still never used the Internet. Connecting an individual, locality, nation or continent to the wealth of information, expertise and communities distributed across the globe is among the greatest promises of the digital revolution. Today, there is a concern on how to reach the next 1 billion users, particularly the Indigenous and unserved communities that have long struggled with limited access and representation in the digital realm.
As we move forward, it’s our collective responsibility to make sure these communities are not left behind in the ongoing digital revolution. We must work forward to a future where the Internet is available to all, regardless of their background, language or location.
UNESCO, together with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, advocates for the preservation, promotion, and revitalization of Indigenous languages worldwide. The Global Action Plan for the Decade calls on freedom of expression, media development, access to information and language technology.
Under the able guidance of Member States, UNESCO works tirelessly to raise the importance of value of Indigenous languages. Languages are the cornerstone of cultural identity, and play a pivotal role in shaping societies. Enabling digital content and services in indigenous languages is essential so that speakers of these languages can express themselves preserve their cultural heritage and fully participate in the digital age. We must make platforms accessible to individuals with different linguistic abilities, ensuring universal inclusion and participation.
The context of indigenous languages is multifaceted. While the universal acceptance of indigenous language is a crucial aspect, we must focus on the other digital production services tailored to the specific needs the indigenous communities. A limited definition of universal acceptance has contributed to a narrow comprehension of how to improve multilingualism online. It is incumbent upon us to have universal inclusion that addresses the short form. One crucial barriers to achieving digital inclusion is the lack of multilingualism in cyberspace. UNESCO adopted the recommendation concerning the promotion and the use of multilingualism.
This standard setting instrument urges our Member States to take appropriate legislative and other measures to promote the use of multilingualism in cyberspace and promoting multi-languages in multidomain. Of promoting indigenous languages in the digital era is not have just a choice but directive. It relates to SDG-4, quality education by providing digital resources, content and tools in indigenous languages, they can access services in their mother tongue. And it plays a vital role in SDG 16, peace, justice, and strong institutions.
Language is the bedrock of communication and cultural expressions. By fostering the use of indigenous languages in the digital space, we promote inclusivity, respect and mutual understanding. In closing, I urge you all to harness the immense potential of the Internet as a tool for positive change. Let us collaborate, innovate and advocate for multilingualism and universal inclusion. Let us also identify solutions and implement initiatives including raising awareness about the importance of preserving indigenous languages and the potential of digital technology in reaching the new 1 billion users. I thank you for your attention and wish you fruitful discussions.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you to Dr. Tawfik Jelassi of UNESCO for this excellent introduction. Just for disclosure, my name is Roberto Gaetano, I’m a member of the user community in Europe, the Internet user community in Europe. And interested in questions like multilingualism.
I think that this excellent introduction, since it’s mentioning indigenous languages and indigenous culture, I think a nice follow-up of this will be the next contribution, that is coming from Sara Kelemeny who is a Sami and can introduce some knowledge to us about the Sami population which is an indigenous population here in Finland. Sara, you have the floor.
>> SARA KELEMENY: (Speaking native tongue).
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to share my experiences of digitalization with Sami language, especially in Sami media here in Finland.
My name is Sara Kelemeny, and I have been working as a journalist. Our field of work is to provide the news and current affairs, journalism for Sami-speaking people in three different Sami languages. We are producing articles, and the news in all Sami languages which are spoken here in Finland. All the Sami languages are endangered and here in Finland we have two highly endangered Sami languages called Sami and I hope I don’t have to explain why it’s important to have the minority people whose existence has been threatened by the majority by centuries for now. I have had a front row seat to see how well the media can be there supporting the revitalization.
The importance of reading topics about your own culture and living environment can be – can make a huge difference, for example, to the younger generation. To use their own language. Here in the presentation, you can see the piece of different – the most recent Sami news from our front page. You can also see how the certain language is written and notice how they differ from one another.
There’s a giant pressure to use the mainstream language, such in English or Finnish. Media can be there to support just by providing content in Sami languages. Such as indigenous media, the era of Internet and digital media have ensured that nowadays anyone who has the access to use the electronic devices can also learn the Sami languages.
In Finland, most of the education in all Sami languages are taught in digital learning environments from beginning of the school path and further education for the adults as well.
Also Sami languages were before only spoken languages for centuries and for example, Skolt Sami language, its own alphabetical characteristics –
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Sara, sorry to interrupt you. You have to operate the slides yourself. So advance. We are seeing just the first slide.
>> SARA KELEMENY: So it didn’t change for me.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: It did change. Thank you. Sorry for the interruption.
>> SARA KELEMENY: Thank you for the interruption. Now we can continue.
And yeah, like you can see now there is the most recent news from each languages. In there is Inari Sami and northern Sami and then Skolt Sami which are quite recent news from Yle Sapmi.
I can tell you some other examples from the other service providers here in Finland and the biggest and the most recent challenge in our journalistic work is the subtitles this is an issue which haunts Sami.
You can see how the Skolt Sami language looks when it is written. We have not been able to use the modern subtitle programs in Skolt Sami at all because the rare characters and then the universal texting program doesn’t recognize some of the alphabets in any of the Sami languages.
This is a language, we want to serve the firsthand Sami-speaking audience and therefore provide subtitles this case someone in the video doesn’t speak any of the Sami language. We have tried multiple ways to make this work. But then here we are. Our TV news broadcast at quarter to five in the evening and there’s a lot of viewers at that time and the subtitle needs to be if Finnish as well. This is a screen shot of our news last week. Here you can see a gentleman, Hans Niittyvuopio, he spoke in northern Sami. In the news content, he speaks also to Finnish for the subtitles.
And in the same – oy! Now we go forward and in the same news feature this lady is a Finnish-speaking person and we needed to use northern Sami in the subtitles. This is our everyday practice so Sami-speaking person can see the news in their own language and also read about it in the subtitles as well.
And next one, here is a filmmaker telling in a telephone interview about his Skolt Sami language. And then we use a Skolt Sami language in subtitles. Even the text would look normal now. It’s not made in the same program as before because there’s some characters that the current program doesn’t understand at all.
We are doing this for some time to ensure that Skolt Sami can read their language via subtitles. To make news available for everyone, the subtitles play a big, big role. All of our videos are subtitles in our broadcasts. The actual subtitling is connected to a program which provides news to be heard for the people who are visually impaired. They can still hear the news via technology.
In the case of Sami language, we need to kind of burn the subtitles in the Skolt Sami straight to the video to avoid the problems with functionality but it makes the following video impossible for the people with special needs. The reading program cannot any more read the subtitles. But just like yesterday, I got great news that we have another new subtitling program, which allows us to use any Sami letters in our streaming platform as well. I’m looking forward to see how it works and maybe in the future in TV as well.
The subtitling issue causes some availability issue in our production for people with special needs but also if we would make it differently, and write the subtitles only in Finnish, it would create availability issues with minority languages. That’s something that we are dealing with every day and single year because the technology development is quite fast and as a minority language, media, we need to try to run after it and stay right behind. And just an addition, right now we are not able to serve the Sami people would have this kind of special needs for easier access and hearing devices.
Also because of this technological development, some of the TVs and digital routers to get digital coders don’t recognize the characters of Sami languages.
But I can say that in we are not the only ones. I will now show you about the Finnish national pension institute commonly known as Kela.
It’s a national service provider, Kela also needs to serve Sami people by providing them forms, soft service and other services also in three Sami languages. Although they have faced a lot of problems with Sami characters as well and couldn’t be able to provide forms, for example, in any Sami languages, these kind of difficulties made it impossible for the Samis to use Kela in their own mother tongue. They could not use their mother tongue applying the student support, unemployment or anything that Kela is there to provide for.
Sami people are used to that, that we always have to fight for our lingual rights in Finland and demand the services year after year. Recently, Kela was able to look deeper into this issue and providing the actual services and the forms in all three languages.
Technological developments and the Internet have made language revitalization easier for us. But we are making tiny steps forward. We are not always heard among the majority and the development in Sami services need also strong will from the actual service provider to cooperate with the Samis and serve them how it should be.
As a Skolt Sami journalist, I still remember when I was learning the language of my grandmother. First of all, the time period was 2010 and there was any news or digital content in Skolt Sami language. The only place I could read Skolt Sami was the old children’s book and the material that my language teacher provided for herself. So imagine a situation, there you are, browsing the recently published idat which was an early thing and you scroll down the news on the web and any of those aren’t in your own language. As a journalism student, it felt incomprehensible. All these years back here, I have been there when we first – when we published the first news article in Skolt Sami, it was written and published on the Internet.
I have been learning how to download the first – how to download and install the Sami characters on my own cell phones. And I have been anchoring the news in Skolt Sami which you can watch and stream from the Internet. There were so many things that even developed, changed or renewed during the past ten years that I have been working for Yle.
I can assure you that there will be more and more examples to serve, and I can talk about these topics, like, hours but no one has this kind of time. If you have any kind of questions about our Sami speaking, Sami working environment or language revitalization, I’m happy to try to answer them.
And I truly wish that all of you here who are working in some kind of field of technology and development give us, the minorities and the smallest groups of people on your mind when you are doing your own job. We need your support with the languages more than ever. Spa’sseb! Thank you.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you, Sara, for this very interesting presentation that gives us the opportunity also to think about how the situation can get complicated for less used languages and also – but also can make us appreciate how the Internet can be an important tool, in order to re-discover and promote also the use of indigenous languages.
I would be inclined to say – to leave the questions to the end and to let all the other presenters to present.
Also the next two presentations will be addressing how the technology can help indigenous languages and supporting indigenous languages and indigenous culture.
The next speaker is Steve Poulson that has been part of the Peloton team for more than 25 years, developing multilingual programming tools for cyberspace. And he will speak to us about a new multilingual programming language and how it can enable universal acceptance. Steve, you have the floor.
>> STEVE POULSON: Thank you very much, Roberto. So we consider universal acceptance on the Internet can only be meet – can only make digital inclusion and that requires a business approach that is different on the Internet. I will share three main ideas. Our view is the biggest issue facing universal acceptance and the digital inclusion around the world. What changes need to take place to the scope and the definition of universal acceptance and how a new approach to programming can provide a solution. So calling out the issue.
For various reasons, historic, technological, economic and political, the world of computing continues to use English as the default language. Currently, nearly 60% of the content on the internet is English. Yet world’s English speaking population is only about 20%. The lack of internationalized domain names is another example of the dominance of the English language.
So deeper still and arguably more impactful, English remains embedded in the foundation blocks of databases and programming languages. We know that English – so we know that language impacts thought. If we are able to achieve universal acceptance and digital inclusion, multilingualism must be part of the fabric of cyberspace, not just something added on at the end. Similar to if you want to make a fruitcake, you can’t add fruit after baking. It must be part of the original mixture.
So a way forward so include people of all ages, all cultures, of all languages in cyberspace with the opportunity for full participation, while maintaining cultural diversity at the same time, we require a new approach. A way that enables participants to engage in their own language so they can inhabit that native paradigm and bring that to a shared digital world. It starts with devices and keyboards and screens and tools and programming languages to begin the possibility of development of multilingual systems, applications, and content on the Internet. So a new programming language and system should enable multilingualism by providing a broad and rich operator set, accessible while using an intertranslatable vocabulary and start with the smallest set of operators and functions, similar to Pascalle beginning with 16 tokens and C beginning with about 30. It should be 1,000 or 2,000 or more.
So for true digital inclusion, we think we need a framework outside of language for people from any mother tongue to acquire the tools for systems and application development, content creation, delivery within cyberspace which is encoded for their local language. It should provide an opportunity for each new version of that language to begin with the development of a vocabulary within the context of the multilingual of that language map.
It should allow for native expression and thoughts while maintain universal intertranslatability. This approach would automatically support the preservation of minority, indigenous, rare and endangered languages, and their mother cultures and fostering acceptance of the universal world. Without the intertranslation, the communities on the Internet will remain separated and isolated without the capacity for direct and shared communication.
Universal acceptance should unite us all so any new approach should be based on user empowerment as its main goal we should expand the whole content of universal acceptance to cover the entire spectrum of the Internet ecosystem, including tools, processes and content.
Shift we need to make is to stop applying a simple translation overlay. If we started by scoping the meaning of each programming function and ask the user community to apply their native language to it, then each function of that system, of their entire system we can then engage with that – with any language, ensuring active survival of the most endangered languages and cultures within the world, the digital world.
So I ask you to consider this perspective. Where multilingualism thrives in the digital world due to the fact that universal acceptance has been achieved after basic universal comprehension of computing has provided the trust to all people which allowed the world to move forward to include intertranslatability at every level within its very fabric.
And that’s what we have been working on for the last 25 years.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Steve, for your interesting exposition of the problems.
And next is Marc Durdin, SIL international team lead for the Keyman Project, who will also explore other issues related to the technology that we need to master in order to have universal acceptance. Marc, you have the floor.
>> MARC DURDIN: Thank you, Roberto. Thank you for inviting me to join this conversation from Cambodia. I’m the team lead for the open source software keyboard program Keyman. I would like to say thank you to Steve for his perspective and I recognize a lot of the things he’s saying and would agree. Hi, Steve. Haven’t seen you for a long time.
So I work with the NGO SIL international. We partner with communities worldwide to develop language solutions to expand the possibilities for a better life. Much of our work is with digitally disadvantaged groups. We work with over 1,300 mostly Indigenous language groups around the world. So we estimate that over 15% of the world’s people are left out of the global dialogue and I recognize that Dr. Jelassi said it was 38%, I think. But what are the numbers? A large number of people that are left out of the global dialogue because the language-related barriers.
And one of those barriers, of course is the digital exclusion and that’s online in the Internet and in general in technology. So from my perspective, universal perspective is one important piece of the digital inclusion puzzle. The internationalized domain names or IDNs are probably the most visually known aspect of this effort. Thus far, universal acceptance has centered around the core requirement to be able to encode one of these IDNs in any modern unicode-supported writing system. With a strong focus on security which is important, in particular, avoiding ambiguity. So targeting a visually unique encoding for any given identifier.
And that’s a good first step but it’s definitely not enough. So while stable reliable encoding is essential ground work for the rest of the pieces of the puzzle to function, we are not able to make use of universal acceptance as users. We need also to make sure that display of the domain names works properly. And crucially users need to be able to type the domain names in a conforming manner and currently these areas are outside the scope of universal acceptance.
So this is not a big grand scale of things. It’s just the next step in what comes – in what we’re looking at with universal acceptance. Some of the design goals around universal acceptance, particularly security, the keyboard methods in use around the world are not well-suited to working with IDNs. It’s difficult to match the requirement of an IDN with the less rigorous encoding principles to which most of these keyboards have been built.
So to before I this home in real life, my team have been working recently on this with reference to Khmer which is one of the trickiest languages to kind. It’s beyond to reliably enter IDN. I observed this reality last week when a roomful of computer science undergraduate and postgraduate students, so people who have years of experience in computing they discovered they had many different understanding of how to type an encode a variety of common Khmer words. We released a draft paper which seeks to address ambiguity in the Khmer script and now we are working on fonts and keyboards that resolve this issue for Khmer, but we are just one small team and this is just scratching the surface for one script out of so many in the world.
So to conclude universal acceptance as it stands does not address this need. So I agree very much with the discussion I have heard so far, that we need to be refocusing our efforts and I would like to suggest that this is one small achievable step that we can take to getting to the point where indigenous communities and even majority language communities can actually make use of internationalized domain names, day-to-day in their lives.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you all very much, Marc. Your contribution brings to my mind a person that you might know that is Norbert Klein, who did a lot of work for the encoding of the Khmer language. I’m sure you have in some way been talking to each other.
So the next contribution comes from ICANN. We have here Maarten Botterman, that most probably everybody know. ICANN board, former chair of the ICANN board, chair of the Public Interest Registry board and some other things that will take too much time to list. Maarten, you have the floor.
>> MAARTEN BOTTERMAN: Okay. Thank you, Roberto, and thanks for the previous speakers for introducing the subject.
As you know, ICANN is responsible in the world for the unique addressing system of the Internet. So it’s making sure that if you type in something, you get somewhere. And as previous speakers have explained, in tradition this has been set up from the English language to the European expansion a little bit, but by far, more to be done to make this inclusive for other languages.
We are committed to other languages as we are committed to serving the world and that already is seen by the fact that in our conferences that we do throughout the world, it allows people from that region specifically to our sessions. We support the six UN languages and where appropriate the local language as well.
So my main focus is not so much on the indigenous languages, how do we support the different languages. How can we make it fair that the next billion users after the 5.5 billion users already using the Internet is very likely to be using one of those minority scripts or languages.
So for that please bear with me.
I will share a short presentation.
Oh, somebody starts Skypeing me, which makes me – so universal acceptance for us, universal acceptance of different language scripts for the routing of DNS along the Internet for reaching email addresses.
Recognizing that minority languages and native languages, indigenous, are important because they reflect culture. They reflect personality and it’s great if you can keep that diversity in this world and support it, but also there’s a lot of other languages that haven’t been supported yet, which is to drive towards doing this. For work to be done to make things work, it’s not only a matter of asking your service providers to do, it but it’s also a matter of investment in making it possible.
Now, you can see that for 1,300,000,000 mandarins, the investment proposition is different than for the Sami indigenous. So how can we support both?
Well, basically, in the recognition, the new users are mainly coming from these new language areas and already in 2000, about half of the world’s – more than half of the language users came from the North American continent. Today that’s about 8%. And more than half come from the Asian continent that represents a lot of different scripts and languages as well. This is an impression of what is already there today. But you see that the different languages are reflected around the world, again, Asia, a lot of languages are there, but all across the world you find this.
The Internet consists basically if you look at web addresses of country TLDs and generic TLDs. For country TLDs, many countries already have their names scripted in their IDN at national level. This is an overview these are the successfully evaluated IDNs. I will tell more about this later and there’s already 91 generic TLDs delegated that are using different languages than the Arab script.
So right now, if you look to these languages how well do they resolve from the Internet? It’s clear there is work to be done. ICANN can support that. There’s universal acceptance steering group that is open to membership, to which you can participate. I will drop the URL in the chat for those who don’t have it yet.
Because currently, universal accepting rates are overriding. You have different acceptance rates but if you go to IDN.idn, for instance, Chinese, many of the Indian languages, what you see that is really like the character set times corrector sets. The other ones are other issues in the universal acceptance like longer names than the traditional two letters or three letters. You see that’s about 8 or 9% of acceptance. More needs to be done to make sure that if you type in an address you can count on it to get to that website. And so the highest percentage is India. That’s even 11 or 12%. So they are well ahead of the curve. It’s clear that more needs to be done. This is not only done by ICANN in this community but it includes those who are making websites of the – the browsers and those who make email servers.
Right now, what you see on email, it’s much better. 22% is already resolving quite well, but also there it’s clear that the promise that IDNs bring, the ability for people to chat, to reach addresses also in the address bar in their own language is there. The promise is there, but reality is more needs to be done to make sure it works.
So the goal is to make it work in all software applications.
Businesses to invest in that as well. And I can see in Finland, if we talk Sami, there’s not a business case for commercial parties to making Sami possible but there’s a societal objective but I can see that this is funded by public funding and things like that. Nationality, TLDs will be able to play a good role in making sure that it goods noticed and gets affected in – in ICANN circles in the UASG circles. That is important way forward.
So all together, next to making this possible, the content is key. I’m very happy to hear from Sara that the content is already there. And it’s accessible and readable in that language. In other areas of the world, sometimes you see that the content is waiting for the resolving. So the ability to reach the addresses to work. But I think really to make this work, the content needs to be king. That needs to be the convincing reason for users to want to go there, which is the stimulus to make sure that it does work.
So also for email systems they need to be upgraded and there’s tests on the UASG site that says does it work in my language? Or not? And yeah, talk with others if you are really passionate about this as I know some people in this room are. Because you need others to work with you to be aware, to be open.
Now, let me say that this is a roadmap for how to do it. There’s all kind of tools to help you do it and basically, what the community has been working on for many years is creating what is called labor generation rules. These are the basic fundamental rules of how you could encode your language, the language you want to see working on the Internet to work on the Internet and then what you need to create as a community, together with the technical community is what is called international could domain name table. There’s already 27 there and Marc, I have seen the one on Khmer is there as well. So this is not something that you can leave to technical community. A lot of you need to involve the language community. To accelerate this, what we have been doing is stimulating and supporting the UA day to raise awareness around the world, that has led to 45 events including in Nepal, that we see the momentum and we grow the momentum together.
I was checking, I didn’t see Khmer here, but many other languages are.
So what you see is the momentum is there. This is the place to find more information on it, and with those, and please reach out to the UASG, to make sure your language is represented in the table as well.
Last but not least, ICANN is about to open where you can list domains and you can submit that in your specific language if that language table has been established. With that, I hope there’s some provision. I realize that we talk about the importance of languages to thinking in languages, to working in languages and I haven’t been speaking in my native language, nor Roberto in Italian.
It’s not bad, but we can do better, by making it work also for local language and the extra benefit that it does support the continuous existence and use of also minority languages that we care about. Thank you, Roberto.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you, Maarten for this presentation of what ICANN has been doing. I may add that in the beginning, ICANN was making conferences only in English. And so it’s already a big improvement to have interpretation and, you know, things go forward. I think that – that there’s something that puts everything together here. So we have seen that there is universal acceptance and that is about giving the possibility to have domain names and email addressing written in a certain – in different scripts, but that is not tough. We need to have keyboards to do this. We need to have also tools for translation.
And so that will go forward and then what was bringing all together was the first presentation from the Sami population on how they can possibly use all of these tools and that’s how this brings new life to languages – languages that were about to be forgotten.
We had other sessions in other conferences where we were pointing this out. So we need to have people in the field that push for the use of the local languages and then at the same time, technical – technical advancement.
Are there any questions for – on the – to any of the speakers right now? And then we need a few minutes also to check the messages that come out from this session. I don’t want to eat too much into the break.
So may I ask if there are contributions from the floor?
Oh, I – yes. Nigel, I just checked five minutes ago, and I didn’t see you online, and I was thinking that you were unable to join.
Sorry for not having noticed. Yes, Nigel is the last speaker that had unfortunately to leave before the end of the conference. And he is connecting online. Nigel, you have the floor. Of may I ask you to be concise in your statements?
>> NIGEL HICKSON: I will be incredibly concise because I just wanted to apologize. I had wanted to do a double act with my good friend Maarten who is far more knowledgeable about what ICANN is doing.
I just wanted to mention two brief things that I’m contributing to from the UK’s perspective, one as part inn has mentioned to enhance the ability of people to apply for new top level domains in different scripts. And in different script variance as well. I’m engaged in the Working Group that’s trying to ensure that different variants on different scripts whether they Chinese or Indian scripts Cyrllic scripts and greater representation from developing countries and regions in terms of new applications when the new application realm launches in 2026.
So doing what we can to enhance multilingualism, I will finish this because it’s been covered. Thanks.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you, Nigel. I see a comment in the chat by Amali, do you want to speak? Or – are you happy with the message in the chat?
Also – okay. She says this is good. I have one more hand. Is Ric. You have the floor.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. Hello, can you hear me?
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Yes.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay. Thank you, Roberto. Now, just a few things because we are in Belgium and active, mostly active with refugees and they speak about many language that, you know – and we have a problem with legal involvement translating documents in certain language, African language or dialect or including Arabic dialect, because we are interpreting and translating documents for police or legal department.
So what we need and we follow very closely the work and we would like to accelerate, you know, the possibilities of translating those documents because sometimes it’s not possible. The other thing that local content and that has been mentioned because we are very keen to promote local content from Africa or everywhere, Middle East, and Asia for our diaspora.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you, if I recognize the voice, tell me if I’m wrong that was Desham Massan.
>> Yes, thank you.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: I would like to give the floor to the rapporteur to tell us what are – what are had – what we can take away from this session.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you very much. I will try to wrap up everything that was said. You said a lot of really good things and I hope I haven’t missed anything relevant. I will try to follow what was said by the participants. We started with the UNESCO message. And multilingualism was key as a municipal language, and also for the Internet viability. The problem is that there’s the 34%, but that number was actually corrected by someone else – some other participants in the panel that 34% never used Internet. These people don’t have access to, for example, language or other languages used to provide digital service. So to make them fully participate in the digital cyberspace it’s important to adopt multilingual as a form of inclusion.
This mission relates to both SDG 4 and it provides digital resources and content and tools in indigenous languages and it means also media relations information and basic rights. But also to SDG 16, which is related to peace, justice and strong institutions.
Secondly, we focused on the Sami case in Finland. We had three different Sami languages. Of course, here again we have a problem in providing news especially related to the subtitles.
For example, one of the Sami languages, Skolt Sami is hard to translate in subtitles and so it poses questions of their viability, not only of the information but also other really important thing like the welfare, bureaucracy, especially we focus on the Finnish national organization Kela and providing documents to determine access measures.
Now I will try to wrap up everything because for first couple of interventions I was prepared and thousand it’s much harder.
So Steve Poulson had other things about the need to improve not just in England but also intertranslatability to all the digital services and he also said that actually the problem is not just about, you know, content provided, but also about, for example, programming, which is almost English based and other services, which were further developed by Marc.
Maarten focused on the need for domains for, for example, for names to digital identities and it’s just really important issue. And Marc focused on the problem, for example, of South Asia and Sub-Saharan regions that are not covered and this reflects – these are the regions that have the least access to the Internet overall. Of course, the goal is more language and more work needs to be done.
And finally, Marc Durdin. Maybe I missed the last intervention. Marc focused on digital disadvantaged group. 15% of the local community didn’t have access and this access, says was mainly due to language-related barriers as we mentioned in the panel. Actually, he also pointed out that universal acceptance as it is conceived right now is not enough, and that does not address the need to provide more access of the Internet space, the cyberspace. And so there is a need to refocus our efforts and he would like to suggest that this would consider not just languages, or indigenous languages but also reshape the internationalized domain names for day-to-day activities. I hope I didn’t miss too many things. They were so many subjects, you know, expressed during the panel.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Thank you. You did an excellent job. The own thing that was – I heard that I would like probably to be reported in the report, is that Marc mentioned that at a certain point in time the keyboards. And I think that this is an issue that might be forgotten, and I would like to have that in the report.
Yes, let me conclude by saying a few things.
>> MAARTEN BOTTERMAN: The other thing is that communities need to come to make the IDN tables if they want to use that, using the language generation models.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Yeah.
>> MAARTEN BOTTERMAN: And that requires community action as well and that needs to find support.
>> ROBERTO GAETANO: Yes, I was about to say this, to mention this in the conclusion in the sense that – you are right. I think one lesson learned from this session is that there are several bits and pieces that we need to put together. It’s the software for the translation, the keyboards, the domain names, and multistakeholderism in general. All of this has to be done in support of the local communities. And so I don’t see as of today a lot of international between people, for instance, who work on keyboards or who work on translation or at least I’m not aware of these efforts.
I think that we should try to push towards more communication and not have all those – leave these things as isolated pockets of things that are not related to each other.
But most and foremost, this cannot happen without the involvement of the local communities.
I wear in this moment my hat as Internet user. I think that this has to – as Maarten has said, we need to populate this. This all doesn’t make sense if we don’t have content in the local languages. All what we are doing, in the technical world is completely useless if it’s not applicable to the real life of the people. It is very unfortunate that the Best Practice Forum on local content has been disbanded by the IGF or rather has been brought into a bigger basket where it’s a little bit lost and we are losing a bit in order to favor the technicalities. We are losing the fact that we are doing this for the purpose of addressing – of supporting the local populations. So I think that this is something that we have to keep in mind and have more involvement by the indigenous cultures and indigenous populations and generally local minorities in this process. Thank you all for having participated. I’m sorry to have overrun by ten minutes the scheduled time.
Special thanks to the support staff, the rapporteur, to the people who have coordinated the input and – and that’s basically it and to all the participants and to the audience.
This session is closed. Bye.