Defining internet universality indicators and access policies to support the implementation of the 2030 sustainable development agenda

14 Jun 2017 13:30h - 15:00h

Event report

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The moderator, Mr Raúl Echeberría (Vice President of Global Engagement, Internet Society) explained that UNESCO’s project on Internet universality indicators is important for governments to analyse themselves and their policies, and motivate others to improve. Echeberría related the principles underpinning indicators saying that multistakeholderness leads to openness, which leads to inclusiveness, which on its turn leads to access. He concluded recognising the challenges of moving from the description of the principles to concrete indicators.

Mr Frank La Rue (UNESCO Assistant Director General for Communication and Information, Guatemala) stressed that information means development, an asset that can build or limit the exercise of power. He mentioned that four common principles came out of the Connecting the Dots conference, namely a rights-oriented approach, accessibility, openness, and multistakeholderism (ROAM), which are a minimal agenda. La Rue concluded that the next step is establishing the indicators, to determine if such principles are becoming more than just a UN resolution, and to use them in practice.

Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (UNESCO commissioned expert on defining Internet Universality indicators, APC (Association for Progressive Communications), South Africa) clarified that there are no draft indicators yet, and that they are meant to measure only issues connected to ROAM principles. She explained that a fifth category, namely cross-cutting indicators, will help examine the correlation among the others. Esterhuysen stressed that indicators are not intended to produce a ranking of countries, but to encourage learning and engagement. She presented the project website where an online webform for participation is available and receiving suggestions until 31 October 2017, and announced draft indicators will be available by April 2018.

Mr Alexandre Barbosa (Head, Regional Center of studies on Information and Communication Technologies (CETIC.BR), Brazil) said that ICTs and the Internet are recognised as enablers to SDGs, and that the ROAM framework will be very important for countries to monitor their progress in achieving the goals and an essential instrument in policy design. He stated the willingness of his organisation to cooperate with UNESCO and APC in piloting initiatives in Brazil or helping consultations in the region.

Mr Jeremy Millard (Chief Policy Advisor at DTI Denmark, and Research Fellow at Brunel University, United Kingdom) said that knowledge is a commodity produced by academia, businesses, governments, and civil society to develop the human condition and reach SDGs. Millard mentioned that nature is a possible fifth source of knowledge and information, if we make sure it keeps supporting our living systems and enabling a sustainable knowledge society, referred to in UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Policy Handbook.

Dr Andreas Brandner (Managing Director, CEO KMA, Austria), said that it is essential that Internet universality indicators focus on target lines, not only minimal agendas. He mentioned the Knowledge For Development Global Partnership, whose agenda propose local multistakeholder partnerships to determine the right indicators, so that people have targets in their specific contexts, distributed dialogue, and a structure to interpret the knowledge. Cities are a good anchor point to use the indicators in a proper way. Brandner said the Internet makes sense when stakeholders find out how to provide knowledge that adds value to the partners.

Mira Milosevic (Director of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)) highlighted media development indicators adopted by UNESCO in 2008 and used over the last 10 years to assess national media landscapes. She mentioned that multistakeholder Internet governance discussions usually focus on infrastructure, and that the debate over content needs to be added. Milosovic recognised the task ahead is challenging, especially the definition of standards and benchmarks, and expects these indicators become part of the mechanism of monitoring access to information.

Mr Balázs Zörényi (DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology Unit F.4: Digital Economy and Skills, European Commission) mentioned the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), through which the European Union measures digital progress, examining 31 indicators around 5 dimensions (connectivity, human capital, use of ICTs by people, business and the public sector). He acknowledges Internet universality as a different approach, and the biggest challenge is measuring indicators about children. For Zörényi, even if the intention of the indicators is not to rank, aggregation will be necessary to understand how countries perform, which will lead to some score.


by Claudio Lucena