Breaking Linguistic barriers to minimize the digital divide by using IDN/EAI-compatible platforms

In this era of digital transformation, Voice, Video and Vernacular have emerged as the three most important pillars of Digital India. With vernacular being one of the crucial components of digitization in India, there is a need to take the Internet beyond India’s English speakers by supporting all 22 official Indian languages.

The number of Indian internet users is expected to increase by 45% in the next five years to 900 million in 2025 from around 622 million in 2020, according to the IAMAI-Kantar ICUBE 2020 report. With the availability of multilingual websites, users can be given a more personalized and engaging experience.

Universal Acceptance (UA) is a foundational requirement for a truly multilingual Internet, one in which internet users can navigate entirely in local languages. Multilingual internet is not simply about providing translation or transliteration within government or non-government websites. It is about giving a voice to people in their own languages. Promoting localized content means more and more people can come forward, document their stories, upload, and occupy the space.

The idea of IDN and EAI as a pathbreaker

The idea of EAI and IDN is to break all the linguistic barriers and minimize digital divide by making digital platforms available in vernacular languages. To navigate the online world, one must have an address, just like in the physical world. However, because the online world or the Internet is made up of a network of computers and other devices that are linked together, their addresses are represented as numerical sequences that these machines can understand. These are known as Internet Protocol or IP addresses, and they are assigned to online devices. Though numbers are natural to machines, they are difficult for humans to remember.As a result, the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS) is used to assist humans in navigating the web of online information. The DNS allows domain names to be assigned to IP addresses.

An Internationalized domain name (IDN) is an Internet domain name that includes at least one label that is displayed, in whole or in part, in a language-specific script in software applications. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) first appeared in the late 1990s, and the Internet community developed a standard based on the Unicode standard to allow IDNs. EAI is the protocol that permits email addresses with IDNs in the domain part and/or Unicode (non-ASCII) characters in the Mailbox name's Local part.

The Road Ahead- UA Readiness

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the organization in charge of ensuring the smooth operation of the Internet's names and numbers known as 'unique identifiers,' which are used by the DNS. As a result, ICANN, in collaboration with the community and industry leaders such as Apple, GoDaddy, Google, Microsoft, and Verisign, has formed a Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG). The UASG exists to assist stakeholders in ensuring that their systems are UA-ready and capable of accepting any domain name or email address. Many efforts are also being made in academia to educate the next generation of programmers and web developers on the importance of Universal Acceptance of domain names and email addresses, as well as how to implement it.

A multilingual email solution refers to an email system or service that allows users to compose, send, and receive emails in multiple languages. It is designed to support and facilitate communication in different languages, accommodating users who are fluent in languages other than the default language of the email client or service.

Multilingual email solutions typically offer features such as:

  1. Language selection: Users can choose their preferred language for composing and reading emails. This allows them to work comfortably in their native or preferred language.
  2. Multilingual composing: The email client or service provides tools for composing emails in multiple languages. This may include support for different character sets, input methods, and spell-checking in various languages.
  3. Translation capabilities: Some multilingual email solutions integrate translation services, enabling users to translate emails to and from different languages. This helps bridge language barriers and facilitates communication between users who do not share a common language.
  4. Language detection: The email system can automatically detect the language used in incoming emails, allowing users to read and understand messages without manually switching languages.
  5. Localization: Multilingual email solutions often include localization features, adapting the email interface and user experience to different languages and cultures. This may involve translating menus, buttons, and other interface elements.
  6. Localization: Multilingual email solutions often include localization features, adapting the email interface and user experience to different languages and cultures. This may involve translating menus, buttons, and other interface elements.
  7. Language-specific settings: Users can customize language-specific settings, such as date formats, time zones, and regional preferences, according to their linguistic and cultural requirements. Multilingual email solutions are particularly useful in international business settings, where communication often occurs between individuals or teams from different countries and language backgrounds. They promote efficient and effective communication by catering to diverse linguistic needs and preferences.