On 14 December 2021, leading African experts called for further advocating ROAM-X principles (Human Rights, Openness, Access, Multi-stakeholders and gender equality based approaches) and implementing the policy recommendations emerged from the ROAM-X assessments at a joint session organized by UNESCO and the African ICT Foundation on the occasion of African Internet Governance Forum 2021.
Moderated by Dr Kossi Amessinou, West African Regional Director for African ICT Foundation, this session was participated by national leading experts from African countries to present their national assessment projects using Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators (IUIs) and allow for wide engagement with African IGF communities and stakeholders.
Jointly presenting the holistic approach of the ROAM-X framework, Xianhong Hu, UNESCO’s Focal point of the IUIs project and David Souter, author of the IUIs ROAM-X framework, highlighted the unique strength of the framework to address burning challenges of meaningful connectivity, multi-lingualism and digital inclusion, as well as the important role of the Multistakeholder Advisory Board (MAB) in enabling a diversity of perspectives to be reflected in the national assessment.
Representing UNESCO Office in Dakar, Elvis Michel Kenmoe shared lessons learned from the completion of the national assessment in Senegal and stated: “The national assessment of IUIs paves the way for inclusion into the development of Internet through its human-rights-based and multistakeholder approach”.
“The Internet Universality ROAM principles and indicators serve as an important tool to help enrich digital landscapes and foster sustainable development of the Internet in Africa” stated Alain Kiyindou, leading researcher of the completed Benin and ongoing Niger assessments described. He also underlined the importance of follow-up studies and monitoring committees to assess the progresses made after the release of national assessments.
“African stakeholders must build more capacity by involving the private sector and civil society to expand the research and deepen it. This particular exercise will help us build the equitable knowledge society the Information for All Programme (IFAP) is working towards” underlined Dorothy Gordon, UNESCO’s IFAP Chair. She also called for more African countries to engage with UNESCO through diverse stakeholder groups to conduct the ROAM assessment. Leading the IUIs project in Sudan, Paul Hector (UNESCO Cairo) stressed the necessity of conducting the ROAM-X assessment in Sudan to complement other ongoing assessments such as the Media Development Indicators (MDI) and desire for a human rights-centered, inclusive and equitable digital development that benefits each countries and citizens.
In her closing remarks, Xianhong Hu underlined that “UNESCO is putting Africa as its global priority to combat digital divides and scaling up the ROAM-X project in Africa to support humanistic digital transformation in the region” and for this purpose, she warmly invites African stakeholders to join the global Dynamic Coalition on Internet Universality indicators.