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IGF 2019 witnessed 16 countries’ progress in applying UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators


Among the presentations during the UNESCO-led event at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Berlin, on 25 November 2019, Paraguay’s Vice-Minister of Information and Communication Technologies Miguel Martin, welcomed the Internet Universality Indicators as a relevant tool for policy-making in the digital sphere.

“Paraguay will be having a multistakeholder roundtable to present to Congress advice on the creation of a personal data protection law next year”, said Martin, who especially commended the multi-stakeholder approach that the framework involves.

His message of support for the UNESCO research framework was echoed by other high-level speakers, including Eric Ndumba, Representative of the Minster of Posts and Telecommunications of the Republic of Congo; Berioska Torres, Undersecretary of Information Society from Ecuador; and Mira Milosevic, Executive Director of the Global Forum for Media Development.

The special session, lasting almost five hours, was dedicated to sharing information between interested stakeholder teams from 16 countries across five continents. They represented initiatives in Kenya, Senegal, Benin, Ghana, Tunisia, South Korea, Sudan, Nepal, Thailand, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, France, Serbia and Bulgaria.

Each presented an update on progress towards using the UNESCO indicators to assess the Internet in their countries.

Also participating in the event were the German Commission for UNESCO, Council of Europe, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Association of Progressive Communications, the Internet Society, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), CETIC.br, Missions Publiques, Global Network Initiative (GNI) and Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD).

The researcher David Souter was also present, having helped to design the Indicator framework which in turn was given the green light in November 2018 by the intergovernmental council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communications.

Souter described how the 303 Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators had been designed to enable stakeholders to assess Internet development at country level and to offer policy improvement recommendations, all in accordance with UNESCO’s ROAM-X principles of Human Rights, Openness, Accessibility to All, and Multistakeholder participation.

Speaking for UNESCO, programme specialist Xianhong Hu said that the lessons from the ongoing assessments were that the process should begin with dialogue and build consensus by formulating a Multi-stakeholder Advisory Board in the country.

“This ensures that the assessment process will be guided in a consultative manner and the assessment results and recommendations will be more likely to be validated and implemented by national actors,” she said.

The event was chaired by the chair of Information For All Programme (IFAP), Dorothy Gordon, who commended the policy lessons emerging from the roll-out of the Internet Universality indicators. 

“These national level experiences validate the importance of IFAP's mandate to support the growth of inclusive knowledge societies as well as IFAP's six priority areas of work notably information literacy, multilingualism in cyberspace, information for development, information access, information preservation and the key area of information ethics,” she said.

The IFAP chair noted that a number of countries had mentioned that despite a historic focus on infrastructure, there is now increasing realization of the importance of digital content creation in local languages, and also of the gender digital divide.

She indicated that IFAP could serve as a platform for the countries involved in this initial application of the indicators framework, so that they could further share the policy lessons and recommendations with other member states and members of the multi-stakeholder community.

The first country to have completed an assessment using the UNESCO indicators is been Brazil, with the national assessment report to be published by the end of 2019.

In early 2020, reports are expected from Benin, Senegal, Kenya, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador.  Other countries are at different stage of assessing the Internet Universality indicators and a further update will be organized during the 2020 IGF.