ICANN urges Asia Pacific to help shape the future of Internet

The long-awaited proposal that will end the U.S. Government’s stewardship over vital Internet technical functions is almost complete. If approved by Washington, the proposal will facilitate the transfer of that stewardship to the international Internet community.

At a media briefing today, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN, highlighted how this transition marks an important milestone in the development and governance of the Internet.

“In a few weeks’ time, we expect to present a proposal that the global Internet community has been working on for almost two years to the U.S. Government. If accepted, it will mark a historic point in the evolution of the Internet,” said Theresa Swinehart, Senior Advisor to the President on Strategy, ICANN.

Approval of the transition proposal would mark the conclusion of the U.S. Government’s long-planned objective in a more than a decade long process to fully privatize the Internet.

A successful transition will further validate the “multistakeholder model” of Internet governance, which includes representatives from business, academia, governments and end-users. This multistakeholder model has preserved the Internet’s openness, allowing it to grow and expand the way it did, changing the lives of many.

Jia-Rong Low, Vice President and Managing Director for ICANN Asia Pacific (APAC) said, “Asia Pacific has traditionally been a ‘price taker’ in Internet governance, but we’ve seen this changing over the past two years. The strong participation from our APAC community has demonstrated an increased confidence and readiness to step up to the global table.”

“The APAC region is home to roughly half of the world’s Internet population, which is just over three billion. For the Internet to continue evolving for our benefit, it must adapt according to the needs of its stakeholders. It is thus important to ensure the wide participation of stakeholder groups in multistakeholder Internet governance,” added Low.

The importance of a free and open Internet stewarded by the global multistakeholder community, particularly for the APAC region can be seen from a few perspectives:

Business

In eMarketer’s latest forecast, e-commerce sales in the APAC region registered US$877.61 billion in 2015, corresponding to 52.5 per cent of global digital e-commerce expenditures. It marks a significant growth of 35.7 per cent from 2014. It is also the first time that the region has had the largest digital retail market in the world and an outright majority of the world market. Fueling this growth is the rising middle class in China, India and Indonesia; and the increasing popularity of mobile devices, driving more and more people online throughout the region.  

“E-commerce is growing rapidly, especially in China, as a result of faster Internet service and greater mobile uptake in the region. But we often forget that e-commerce is successful because of one global Internet network. A breakdown of this network will surely result in significant losses for businesses and impact the region greatly,” said Lee Xiaodong, President and CEO of China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Language diversity

With almost 3,000 languages spoken in the region, accommodating language and cultural diversity is critical to the economic success of the region. To help narrow the language gaps, many nations and businesses are now leveraging the Internet to allow users to access information in their native languages. The Digital India program is a prime example.

In the Domain Name System that is coordinated by ICANN, it is now possible for domain names in different scripts (other than Latin-based script) to be introduced without destabilizing the Internet. For example .商店 or Chinese for “.shop” and .みんな or Japanese for “.everyone”. These domain names can escalate Internet penetration for non-English speaking users in the region.

However, to accept the use of multiple scripts in domain names requires the active participation of multistakeholders of local communities, including linguistic, code and policy experts, to develop the necessary standards and evolve the Internet.

“We have always been involved in ICANN and Internet governance forums and discussions. We recognize the importance of our region’s participation and strongly encourage anyone with an interest in the Internet to get involved. We have a growing number of Internet users in our region but our voices in the global arena are not proportional to its growth and the number of Internet users. We need to make sure that the Internet is evolving adequately to support our region’s needs,” said Izumi Okutani, Policy Liaison, Japan Network Information Centre (JPNIC).

Facilitating the development of multistakeholder Internet governance in APAC

The next billion Internet users are expected to come from developing nations, including many Asian countries such as China, India and Indonesia. These next billion will play a key role in the future of the Internet.

“As the stewardship of the Internet’s key functions are handed to the global multistakeholder community, it is vital that stakeholders, especially from our region, participate in the Internet’s governance,” continued Low. “We recognize that this is a diverse region with many different languages, cultures and needs. As the community’s needs evolve, we will also evolve our DNA to better address your needs and serve you better. ICANN’s Asia Pacific hub will continue to work with stakeholders to facilitate their participation in regional and global Internet governance.”

To achieve the above, Low highlighted that the ICANN Asia Pacific hub aims to work with key partners to bring ICANN and Internet governance related issues to the community in local context and language. This will address barriers to entry such as language, and raise awareness and understanding of key issues to facilitate participation. In addition, the APAC hub will also facilitate stakeholders to participate in the Internet’s development, including using domain names in local scripts, as well as the use and acceptance of Internationalised Domain Names, including new generic Top Level Domains.