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The EURid and ICANN MoU: What does it mean for IDNs?

New EURid and ICANN collaboration on universal acceptance

On 20th June 2022, EURid, the European registry of the .eu top-level domain (TLD), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) officially announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two institutions. The MoU implies a stronger commitment for the two institutions in two intertwined cooperations: supporting Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) and promoting the Universal Acceptance (UA).

Technical, research and educational activities

The MoU mentions several important collaborations in joint activities around IDNs and UA. EURid and ICANN also intend to cooperate on technical collaborations, research, education, community engagement, and information sharing. The MoU is a statement of intent between EURid and ICANN to strengthen their efforts in achieving an inclusive and multilingual internet.

A daunting challenge

This MoU is a significant milestone for IDNs and UA as EURid and ICANN are two influential actors that have been committed to addressing the problem of internet multilingualism. At the European level, more work on IDNs and UA needs to be done, particularly in non-Latin alphabet domain names, such as .ею (Cyrillic script) and .ευ (Greek script). Better inclusion of European languages and alphabets is also needed to advance digitalisation and digital transformation across Europe. This is in line with the EU Digital Vision to foster the benefit of digitalisation across wider demography, particularly in a diverse socio-linguistic society in Europe. In turn, this potentially brings a positive impact, not only economically, but also socially and culturally in the continent.

Community engagement

The MoU is equally important to bring new best practices in technical collaborations, research, education, community engagement, and information sharing in relation to IDNs and UA. The technical areas are one of the biggest challenges in achieving Universal Acceptance given the complexity of the issues in IDNs. Community engagement is also one to watch on this MoU because it is situated at the core of today’s IDNs problem: reaching out to the communities and stakeholders whose languages and scripts are not entirely integrated into the current internet network system. By engaging with and listening to different communities and stakeholders, EURid and ICANN will be able to get a better understanding of the current state of the affairs and eventually, a better solution for an inclusive internet in Europe.

New precedent for collaboration

Cooperation between different institutions on IDNs and UA is still not common, hence this MoU is an exciting opportunity that will set a new precedent for collaboration. The precedent should also lead to wider cooperation and collaboration of different stakeholders in the future, particularly in the Global South. South America, Asia, and Africa have an enormous diversity of languages that creates various challenges in achieving Universal Acceptance. In the Global South, the multilingualism of the internet is an intertwined challenge with the Digital Divide problem. An improvement of access to internet infrastructure and networks in the Global South needs to go hand-in-hand with a better inclusion of different languages and scripts on the internet in which the MoU between EURid and ICANN can set the precedent. It is previously also done with a similar MoU between EURid and ICANN in 2015 to develop Local Expertise in the Domain Names System (DNS) sector in Africa and the Middle East. The new MoU should ideally lead to wider cooperation and bring significant benefits beyond Europe.

Advantage of the EURid and ICANN MoU

Nevertheless, the MoU between EURid and ICANN is a step forward in the efforts of IDNs and UA. It also comes at the right time when the efforts in achieving UA need refreshment and a new positive mood. The MoU brings back the discourse of the importance of IDNs and UA for a better inclusive internet for all to the centre of discussion among stakeholders. This hopefully signals other stakeholders to refocus and reenergize on IDNs and UA.

Abid Adonis

Abid A. Adonis is a Research Assistant of Oxford Information Labs. Adonis is also a DPhil/PhD student at Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. He previously graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Sciences Po, Paris, and Universitas Indonesia. His research interest includes Digital Sovereignty and the intersection of International Relations and Technology.

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