By the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG)
Sri Lanka is a densely populated, ethnically diverse island of 21.7 million people, with two official languages: Sinhala and Tamil. Both inside and outside of Sri Lanka, Sinhala is spoken by more than 15 million people worldwide and is widely used on the Internet, especially on Facebook. This is the direct result of a 25-year effort by the Sri Lankan government and private sector organizations to develop Sinhala and Tamil support for digital services, including the encoding of Sinhala in Unicode starting in 1996.
In 2010, together with several other entities, LK Domain Registry obtained delegation of two internationalized country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), “.ලංකා” and “.இலங்கை,” in Sinhala and Tamil, respectively. To raise awareness of the IDN ccTLDs and address technological gaps in Sri Lanka, research and development company Theekshana has officially founded a UA Local Initiative in Sri Lanka.
Theekshana has already created a Local Language Technical Help Centre (LLTHC) with financial help from LK Domain Registry, which runs a telephone hotline and a web portal (www.helpcentre.lk), where anyone can submit online queries and solicit help with technical issues related to Sinhala and Tamil Unicode. With the start of the UA Local Initiative, Theekshana has begun popularizing two ccTLDs and providing technical assistance in implementing two IDN ccTLDs. In addition to providing technical assistance for setting up IDN ccTLDs, the multi-faceted UA Local Initiative is aimed at:
- Capacity building of information and communications technology (ICT) professionals in Sri Lanka.
- Establishment of a testbed, email server and open-source tools for UA-readiness, along with an assessment of network tools for their ability to support Sinhala domain names with U-labels.
- Development of UA and Email Address Internationalization (EAI) training materials, workshops and hackathons.
- Development of an academic curriculum covering UA and IDNs for use in Sri Lankan universities and other higher education institutions.
In providing the necessary UA tools and resources, including an email platform in Sinhala, this project is expected to increase awareness of UA, promote the use of non-ASCII email addresses in Sri Lanka and create a financially viable path to continue supporting UA and the use of Sinhala and Tamil ccTLDs. More broadly, this project is a potential case study that demonstrates how governments at all levels can embrace UA. When people can navigate and communicate on the Internet using their chosen domain name and email address that best aligns with their interests, business, culture, language and script, governments are better able to communicate and provide critical services, as well as uphold local cultural traditions through language.
UA Local Initiatives are among the UASG’s core projects and are led by community groups and stakeholders around the world. Members of UA Local Initiatives collaborate with UASG leadership, UA working groups, and ICANN organization to address UA-readiness in their regions. There are now a total of five UA Local Initiatives based in China, CIS-EE, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. To learn more about this project or find out how you can get involved in UA Local Initiatives in your area, get in touch.