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ICANN rallies stakeholders for Universal Acceptance, local initiatives in Africa

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Almost 4.57 billion people were active internet users as of April 2020, encompassing 59 percent of the global population, according to statistica.com. These billions of Internet users cut across different cultures, languages, economic strata, and education levels.

Thus, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN’s) work, such as helping mitigate DNS abuse, or raising awareness about Universal Acceptance, is towards protecting these users, and creating an environment that is welcoming for the next billion users.

Projections show that many of these next billion users will be from Africa, so that’s why it’s important that stakeholders raise awareness about Universal Acceptance these days.

To further buttress these points, experts in the domain name industry who participated during a Webinar on Universal Acceptance and Local Initiatives in Africa, highlighted the need for technology ecosystem in Africa.

They called on software developers to quickly align with counterparts in other parts of the world.

In her opening comments, the Senior Advisor to President & SVP, Global Stakeholder Engagement, ICANN, Sally Costerton, recalled that since 2006, the world of domain names has changed significantly.

TechEconomy.ng learned there are now over 1,200 Top-Level Domains (TLDs), which include suffixes that speak to individuals’ interests and affiliations (e.g., .AFRICA) or are in languages other than English (e.g., .ОНЛАЙН).

Costerton, said however, the majority of Internet-enabled applications, devices and systems are still often developed with rules created over 20 years ago.

This means that many applications and online systems do not recognize or properly process these new domain names or emails associated with them.

Universal Acceptance (UA) is a technical compliance best practice that aims to solve this problem. It ensures that all domain names and all email addresses can be used by all software.

In her words, with this: “Universal Acceptance (UA) is a foundational requirement for a truly multilingual Internet, one in which users around the world can navigate entirely in local languages.”

She said it is important for Africa, with diverse languages, to embrace the call under the Universal Acceptance.

The Vice Chairman, Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), Tan Tanaka Dennis, referred to Universal Acceptance as a fundamental requirement that can be accomplished through the corporation from the technology ecosystem like developers.

In a nutshell, Dennis said that Universal Acceptance connotes an evolution in the internet naming system as people from around the world can effectively use any domain name and any email address.

Speaking on why UA is important to the growth of the ecosystem, he said, it will offer even choice to users.

UASG’s mission, he said, is to “mobilise the software application developers to get their products UA ready by providing encouragement, documentation, case studies, tools and measures to deliver the right user experience (UI) to end user”.

Also during a presentation titled, ‘How Can the Community Be Involved: UA Local Initiatives and the UA Ambassador Program’, the IDN Program Director, Sarmad Hussain, said “The impact is to promote choice, impact and broaden access”, adding that “ICANN’s community has found UA as a priority area”.

Speaking on his experience as UA Ambassador, Abdalmonem Galila from Egypt, stressed the need for more African professionals to join the UA Ambassadors’ Programme as means to intensify UA awareness on the Continent.

Nodding in agreement, the AFRALO Chair, Seun Ojedeji, said that AFRALO will continue to create awareness through Webinars to sensitize members and non-members.

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In his closing remarks, the VP Global Stakeholders Engagement Africa at ICANN, Pierre Dandjinou, reiterated that part of the Universal Acceptance work is towards realizing a multilingual Internet.

He said that this is of utmost importance since the next billion Internet users will probably be non-English speakers. Therefore, stakeholders need domain names in local languages to connect them in the future, and to connect the rest of the world today.