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Native Language Internet Address introduced in UN Press
Native Language Internet Address introduced in UN Press

Since 1998, the ITU has held the WSIS for a variety of issues. Among them, through Digital Divide, which presents the issue of digital divide among countries, this article covers the significance of the Native Language Internet Address (NLIA) of Netpia and suggests that NLIA is an important tool to bridge the gap of the IT industry all around the world.


Transforming the digital divide into
the digital opportunity:
The Netpia Native Language Internet Address

Netpia, Korea
THE ORIGIN OF the Internet was the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANet). It was developed in 1969 and used mainly by experts to exchange information between remote computers for academic and military purposes. Throughout the 1970s, Internet use gradually increased with the introduction of the IP address system. However, difficulties in using this system continued to impose limits on the use of the Internet.

Since the 1980s, there has been explosive growth in Internet use after the United States Department of Commerce (US DoC) organized and distributed domain names that people would feel more comfortable with than IP addresses. This resulted in the growth of Internet-related industries and the birth of the new economy, and the evolution of the US into a high-tech based economy.

The growth of the Internet has dramatically changed many things. Because the Internet has become so popular and widespread, people are affected by it regardless of their age, culture or language. With the Internet turning into a whole new land to pioneer, individual countries are working hard to expand their territory and to maintain an influence in the form of their own domain address system. Without this evolution of user-friendly Internet addresses from the original IP address system, the era of the dotcom industry would not have arrived.
Diagram showing the growth of Korean Internet address usage
Promises and pitfalls of the Internet

In the long-run, however, domain names have been the cause of both hopes and despairs. The growth of domain names ending in ‘.com’ has been limited to one language, English. In contrast with the past, people today gain a great deal of information from the Internet. Therefore, countries or people that are not familiar with English are bound to fall behind in an era of information technology.

Consequently, English-speaking countries have been able to continue to accumulate wealth through a rapid growth of Internetrelated industries by using the Internet as a common service among the public. Meanwhile, social and economic development has been relatively slow in non English-speaking countries, which account for more of the world’s land and population than Englishspeaking countries.

Many areas of the world are only beginning to gain access to the Internet, and the Native Language Internet Address (NLIA ) will help users in these areas to learn how to access important information using their own language. Using NLIA will also help them to establish skills and pride in their own culture and language, because they will not be forced to use English in order to use the Internet. Netpia predicts that the NLIA solution will help millions of non-English speaking Internet users around the world to navigate the web through easier and more intuitive access to the Internet.

The Native Language Internet Address developed the NLIA in 1997. It has enabled non- English speakers and those who are not very familiar with English to access information freely using the Internet, a task that previously proved difficult for them. For example, with the commercialization and popularity of the Native Language (Korean) Internet Address service in 1999, Korea’s ranking in the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Digital Access Index jumped from 24th in 1998 to 4th in 2002, signifying Korea as the first country to experience an increase in growth rate. The secret weapon in Korea’s significant development as a representative of non-English speaking countries, with its unique alphabet systems, lies in the NLIA system.

Unlike English-language domain names, NLIA is an Internet address which does not sideline anybody in any way. Regardless of the country or ethnic group they belong to, anyone who can read and write their native language can have easy access to the wealth of information on the Internet. Instead of using complicated strings of Roman English letters with prefixes and suffixes, users can type meaningful and intuitive words in their own language directly in the address bar to reach websites. This is not another search engine, but a one-to-one address mapping system. And because it is a serverbased solution, it provides ubiquitous coverage no matter which operation system, browser, or device is being used to access the Internet. People using older computers and those using the newest wireless devices will benefit from the same solution. In this regard, NLIA provides a ‘knowledge gateway’ to the Internet for everyone.


The convenience of NLIA

Under the English-language domain names system, users can encounter difficulties in guessing the names of websites and their top-level domains (TLDs). Therefore, people tend to run search engines in their native languages and select one of the web sites among the list of results. Occasionally, people even end up visiting several web sites before reaching the one they were looking for. An increasing number of Internet users have experienced this type of inconvenience as the existing domains have become saturated.

NLIA is a keyword-based Internet address presented in natural language. It is a third-generation technology that provides Internet users with an environment where they are free from hard-to-remember English domain name containing ‘www’ and full-points, and can use their own language to access information . Moreover, because it is in the users’ native languages, it is more intuitive and users are able to guess the Internet address they are looking for much more easily. Because NLIA guarantees interoperability and compatibility with the domain name system, it is also ready to be used without any modification of or changes to existing applications, and without the or installation of new ones.

NLIA is easy to remember and convenient to use, and has been a leader in transforming the computer-oriented Internet address system into a human-oriented one with the goal of helping people around the world use real-name Internet addresses in their own native language.

Success in Korea

Korea, the first country to adopt the NLIA system, has witnessed remarkable development. Internet usage rates increased rapidly nationwide, bridging the information gap substantially among various sectors in society. Korea’s success in rising to fourth place in the ITU Digital Access Index for 2002 was compounded by the country’s rise from 17th place in 2003 to fifth place in the United Nations’ Global e-Government Readiness rankings in December 2004.

In Korea it is quite common to see people who do not know a word of English, such as the elderly or young children, using NLIA to access the Internet, conduct e-commerce, find important information, and get benefits from e-Government services without difficulties.

Currently, all of Korea’s local government web sites, in association with the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, have registered their Korean Internet Address, helping the Korean people to access civil services online more easily. In addition, during the 17th General Election campaigns, more than 90 per cent of the National Assembly candidates registered their homepages using the Korean Internet Address, giving voters easier access to information about them.

The online election campaigns turned out to be more effective by cutting costs and time as well as enabling the exchange of opinions compared to the old-fashioned offline promotions. The new Internet address system has helped realize a genuine digital democracy by eradicating irregularities arising from offline campaigns and by establishing apparent election campaigns.
Her Royal Highness the Princess Maha Chkri Sirindhorn of
Thailand visited Netpia head office (Seoul, Korea, October 2004)

Status quo for the globalization of NLIA

NLIA has completed its test for languages that are now being used in 95 different countries. The commercialized service has already been launched in Korea, Turkey and Thailand, while pilot services are being provided in Japan, Bulgaria and Mongolia. In addition, a lot of efforts have been devoted to the preparation of service commercialization in the regions traditionally considered to be non-English speaking countries, such as Greece, and Malaysia, and some Arabic countries.

International activities have been undertaken including participation in Internet address-related organizations such as ICANN, IETF, ITU, and APRICOT. In particular, the ITU started discussing the possible technical standardization of NLIA in 2004.

In November 2004 Dr Kangsik Cheon, who has been actively involved in numerous international meetings as a member of Netpia, was appointed a member of the United Nations Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) by UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan.

In September 2005, Netpia sponsored a group of world-class Internet multilingualization experts to organize a preparation workshop for the Native Language Internet (NLI) consortium. Representatives from numerous countries and organizations attended this intense preparation workshop to share in a highlevel discussion of the current condition of the digital divid, and to underline the benefits and the merits of NLIA. The event accentuated a strong sense of Internet equality through NLIA as a major solution in helping to bridge the digital divide. Louis Pouzin, a legendary figure in the Internet society, agreed to serve as interim chairman at the workshop, to oversee the worldwide promotion and implementation of Internet multilingualization.

A follow-up meeting was held in Tunis in November 2005, corresponding with the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The NLI consortium was finally inaugurated at this meeting. Six board members, including Mr Pouzin as chairman, had been elected, taking into account the geographical balance of the world. Netpia considers the launch of the consortium to be a major milestone in the globalization of the NLIA service, with long-anticipated movement by the partner organization towards promoting Internet multilingualization. With the spirit of genuine partnership in mind, Netpia has committed the consortium to fully supporting its activities towards realizing the vision of ‘Internet for everyone’.

The Turkish Internet Address service has been launched
(Istanbul, Turkey, July 2005)
Effects from the introduction of NLIA

As proven in Korea, the NLIA service has been effective in narrowing the digital divide. Indeed, its effects can be shared by those not only in developing countries, but also in advanced non Englishspeaking regions of advanced countries. Considering that the information gap exists between those who can speak English and those who cannot, even in advanced countries, including France and Germany, the introduction of the NLIA service is essential.

English-speaking countries that have the upper hand in the IT industry might also enjoy positive effects from the active use of the Internet in non English-speaking countries. Eventually, an increased Internet penetration rate in the non English-speaking countries will follow in the growth of the market by presenting more opportunities to export the latest technologies.

NLIA also has far-reaching effects on Internet infrastructure and in other related industries. For instance, NLIA has boosted e-commerce activities in Korea, which stimulated that country’s economic growth. In the long run, NLIA will help to develop ITrelated industries such as software and hardware. NLIA will give birth to big new enterprises in much the same way as domain name-related industries have done in the past (e.g. Microsoft, eBay, Yahoo, Google, Amazon and Hewlett-Packard). This will present further opportunity to increase the number of Internet users worldwide. It is therefore in the best interests of governments around the world to adopt NLIA in their endeavours to enable national growth and empowerment.
Preparing for the future with NLIA

Today’s information society is rapidly moving towards the IPv6- based next-generation Internet and ubiquitous environment, further emphasizing the need for the implementation of the NLIA system. In the future, when everybody has an IP address and all electronic equipment is controlled using IP addresses, assigning complex English domain names to all equipment will be impossible. Therefore, Netpia’s NLIA system, which allows the free use of ‘real’ offline names, has been catching the public eye as the key alternative that will guide users in the information society of the future.

NLIA is an Internet address that is easy to remember and convenient to use. The system has been leading the way to transforming the computer-oriented Internet address system into a human-oriented one, and which can enable people around the world in the ubiquitous computing era to use native language Internet addresses in a convenient manner. The Internet is no longer a sanctuary for the privileged few, for one particular language, or for one culture.

Netpia is dedicated to providing user-friendly, intuitive Internet access through the NLIA system, and takes pride in being part of the global effort to bridge the digital divide caused by the language barrier. As Director Houlin Zhao of ITU-T stated: “Innovation like NLIA can certainly introduce greater fuel to the global ICT services. To enable people to use their own language to access the Internet is fundamentally an act of defending human dignity and equality. To promote the NLIA will eventually contribute to the global efforts to bridge the digital divide. The world will have to take action to support the needs of developing countries in this respect. I hope the business community will follow Netpia to work on this issue.” NLIA, which combines real names and cyber identities, will take its place as a standard in the next generation of the Internet as well as the ubiquitous age.
Digital Reach :
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), following a proposal by the Government of Tunisia, resolved in 1998 to hold a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and place it on the agenda of the United Nations.

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