Arabic domains important if Middle East wants to profit from internet

Members of the first Arab Internet Governance Forum to be held in Dubai highlight the lack of websites registered in Arabic names, saying it is an important development to help the region fully profit from the internet.

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DUBAI // The organisation overseeing global website addresses and internet policy says more sites in the Arab world should have local domain names.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) highlighted the lack of sites taking local domain addresses at the first Arab Internet Governance Forum to be held in Dubai.

Icann regards Arabic domain names as an important step to helping the region fully profit from the internet, promote a better online economy, build a strong, networked community, and add to the overall knowledge base of a country.

"You can create spaces on the internet that have unique cultural rules," said Fadi Chehade, the president and chief executive of Icann.

"That can be very attractive to countries in this part of the world."

The first UAE website with an entirely Arabic address - the Arabic equivalent of "khalifa.emarat" - went live in May 2010, but few have taken up the option to use the ".emarat" tag since.

There are only 11 Arabic country code domain names, including the UAE's ".ae".

Mr Chehade said a willingness must also be shown by local operators and service providers.

Osman Sultan, chief executive of the telecommunications provider du, said: "We need to look at what will enable our users to benefit fully from the digital age.

"What is lacking is a single unified strategy for governing how we use the internet.

"Arabic content, and Arabic domain names are things that can be addressed, but we need to first agree on what is the architecture of the house we want to build."

Icann is examining 116 applications for domain names, most of which come from China. Only 15 are in Arabic script, including the Arabic equivalent of ".net".

Representatives at the forum agreed to form a working group to look at how to co-ordinate future internet use in the Arab world, and will present their findings to Icann.