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 Monday, May 22, 2006

The joint ITU/UNESCO Global Symposium on Promoting the Multilingual Internet closed with the chairman encouraging the two organizations to take a lead role in promoting international cooperation for developing the multilingual internet and encouraging interested relevant organizations as well as individuals to actively join these initiatives and strengthen their cooperation in this regard. Specifically it was said, there is a need for increased ITU/UNESCO involvement in the harmonization of standards, in addition to their specific programmes to promote multilingualism and local content throughout the digital world.

There is, it was agreed, a huge demand for the support of multiple languages and responding to this in a more coordinated way, experts concurred is a key way to avoid fragmentation of the Internet.

Chair, Direk Charoenphol, National Telecommunications Commission, NTC, Thailand: “It is fundamental that, in the end, multilingualism – whether using IDNs, keywords or contents – be natively supported in operating systems and browsers, not retrofitted, to avoid the need for plug-ins, which creates a constant source of user and operational difficulties.”

Houlin Zhao, Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU said: “By organizing this event, ITU has demonstrated its determination to work on these issues.” He thanked UNESCO for its support in the organization of the event.

Elizabeth Longworth, Director, Information Society Division, UNESCO: "We should not talk about culture as a feature of communications technology - rather, the internet is a domain of human activity in its own right, where language and content are manifestations of the users' cultures and so the focus should be on the users' ability to participate, to become content providers and to navigate across linguistic boundaries."

A roadmap or guidelines highlighting steps towards a multilingual Internet is seen as an important initiative. It was agreed that this is a complex task that requires substantial and strengthened cooperation between relevant bodies.

During the three-day Symposium, a number of presentations were made and discussions focused on standardization activities and technical solutions for internationalized domain names (IDNs), for equipping non-scripted languages and allowing them to be present on the internet, the development and promotion of local contents, and measurements of the current linguistic diversity on the internet. Perspectives of domain name registries and an overview of the associated intellectual property issues that arise when multilingual domain names are deployed were also presented.