Khaled Fattal, a Syrian-born businessman with U.S. citizenship, residence in Britain and an office in Singapore, could qualify as a citizen of the world.
And as an Arab with international connections, Fattal is well-placed to accelerate a task which has eluded technicians and linguists for the past decade -- enabling Arabs unfamiliar with the Latin script to use the Internet in Arabic alone.
Under the present system, inherited from the time when the only members of the Internet community were four U.S. universities, all the addresses on Web sites must be written in English or other languages using exactly the same characters.
Even the humble umlaut, the two dots written over German vowels, is a recent addition to the domain name system, confined so far to registries of names run by German-speaking countries.
Fattal, chairman of the Multilingual Internet Names Consortium (MINC), says he is determined to change that and turn the Internet into a truly global instrument for communication.
"There are two ways to create this multilingual internet. Either we teach English to over 4.5 billion non-English speaking people distributed across the world, or we incorporate the world's various languages and language variations into the Internet's infrastructure," he told Reuters in Cairo.
Elevating Arabic to equal status with English could revolutionize Internet usage in the Middle East and lead to an explosion in the number of sites offering Arabic content.
"What Khaled says is true, because if you only speak Arabic, why would you be interested in the Internet?" said Paul Verhoef, a vice president at the International Corporation for Internet Names and Numbers (ICANN), which runs the .com register.
But in the case of Arabic, an alphabetic script which conveys at least four major languages and is widely used in more than 30 countries, a long-term solution could take another five years to implement, according to Charles Sha'ban, a member of the MINC board and an expert on the subject.
The Arab Internet community has partly itself to blame because, more so than its counterparts in the Far East, it has wasted several years in disagreement over which characters are essential and how to map them into computer code.
The process is more complicated than it might appear because apart from the basic characters the Arabic script also contains a set of optional diacritical marks which can be crucial.
Fattal's favorite example is the theoretical domain name qran, which could mean either "marriage" or "the Koran", depending on whether the "a" character has a line on top.
"Someone might end up buying qran.com in Arabic when he is a marriage counseling service and put on the system the Kama Sutra so that people can become friendly. Then someone checks in expecting to read the Koran," he said.
David Maher, chairman of the Public Interest Registry, who registers Web sites ending in .org, said: "The Arab interest groups including governments and professional organizations are still having serious disputes about the proper Arabic letters. They have not been able to agree on a standard."
Sha'ban agreed that coordination between so many players has been a problem and that commercial companies with a stake in pushing their own systems have complicated the process.
"You have 22 Arab countries, all of which would like a say. At the same time there are other countries who use the same Arabic script -- Farsi, Urdu and Pashtun. So it does need more cooperation between them," he told Reuters in an interview.
"Everybody is trying to push sometimes their own technology, which means private companies. They are confusing people. So that's why the countries are withdrawing from this process a little bit now," he said.
The bigger obstacle, he said, was the world's reluctance to overhaul the whole Internal address system so it can handle the thousands of characters used in non-English languages.
The current route server system uses the computer code known as ASCII, which has a very limited character set.
A temporary solution is to program computer terminals so that they translate Web site addresses into a form the global internet understands, but even that has practical problems.
Fattal said that given enough funding, say $6 million, his organization could produce tangible results within nine months.
Sha'ban is less optimistic. "A good solution would be to have direct characters in the route itself, which according to the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) would take another five years," he said.