In 2015, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the concept of “Internet Universality” to highlight features of the internet which UNESCO believes are fundamental to fulfilling its potential for sustainable development.
The concept was developed by UNESCO through an extensive programme of research, analysis and consultation with member states and the internet stakeholder community.
It recognises that the internet is much more than infrastructure and applications. It is a network of economic and social interactions and relationships, which has great potential to enable rights, empower individuals and communities, and facilitate sustainable development.
Understanding the internet in this way helps to draw together different facets of internet development, concerned with technology and public policy, rights and development.
Internet Universality: A Means Towards Building Knowledge Societies and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, UNESCO Discussion Paper, 2013:
“Internet Universality” as a concept captures what is important in the light of the growing pervasiveness of the Internet in human affairs. It highlights the behavioral norms and values underpinning this trend, and points to the need to strengthen these so as to have an Internet that helps realize the highest aspirations of humanity, which is ubiquitous and serves everyone, and which reflects general participation in its development and governance.
Internet Universality embraces four principles – the R-O-A-M principles – which have been fundamental to the development of the internet:
R – that the internet is based on human Rights
O – that it is Open
A – that it should be Accessible to all
M – that it is nurtured by Multistakeholder participation.