The Arabic Script IDN Working Group in Jordan
I had probably one of the most amazing and productive trips last week. I was in Amman, Jordan to attend the 4th Arabic Script IDN Working Group meeting along with over 20 colleagues from the region. The "Arabic Script in Internationalized Domain Names - Working Group" (ASIWG) is an autonomous and self organized group formed by regional and global Internet key players interested in the integration of the Arabic script in Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).
This working group gathers ICT experts from the Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Jawi communities as they all use the Arabic script in their languages, Internet registries and global organizations. I had not realized until the opening of the meeting, but the timing was auspicious indeed. Exactly a year ago, PIR, Afilias Limited and UN-ESCWA had facilitated the first ASIWG meeting to coincide with the ICANN regional meeting in Dubai. This was the 4th meeting of ASIWG as a continuation to the efforts started earlier regarding the formulation of guidelines for the use of Arabic script in Internet addresses, namely Domain Names.
The meeting commenced with a welcome speech by His Excellency Bassem Al-Rosan the Minister of Information and Communication Technology of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Mr. Nasser Khalaf of NITC.gov.jo our local host and organizer and our colleague Ayman El –Sherbiny of UN-ESCWA. The attendees reflected the diversity and richness of the Arabic script base languages (Farsi, Urdu, Sindhi, Jawi, Arabic etc) and representative countries including Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Somalia, and US. Local press also covered the event:
Ram Mohan, CTO of Afilias Limited, did an excellent job facilitating the 2.5 day meeting. Typical of our meetings, our agenda was packed and each day lasted well into the night. Some of the most engaged discussions and debates centered on defining guidelines for certain language characters. For example, there are characters that might cause visual confusion and hence lead to increased probability of phishing and customer confusion. The bulk of the deliberations were on how to handle the challenge: Should these characters be disallowed? And if so - should it be done at the protocol level or at the registry level? We spent some of our time looking at how we make decisions and what objectives we ought to consider in deciding if a character ought to be disallowed at protocol versus registry level. We also devoted some time to responding to ICANN’s proposed development and use of IDN tables.
The meeting concluded with a rather impressive list of follow-up items. Needless to say, by Friday when the meetings concluded, we were ready to break from the conference room at last. NTIC in turn invited all of the participants to their offices to enjoy the Jordanian national dish – “Mansaf”. My thanks goes to my colleagues at Afilias Limited and UN-ESWA (Ram Mohan and Ayman El-Sherbiny) as well as the larger ASIWG group, and of course our host, Mr. Nasser Khalad of NTIC.gov.jo, who truly embodied the concept of gracious Jordanian hospitality.