UNESCO consults on Internet Universality indicators

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David Souter chairs a focus group on Internet indicators on Monday
© UNESCO
18 May 2017

Civil society groups have shown enthusiasm for UNESCO’s project to develop indicators for assessing the Internet in terms of Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multistakeholder participation, the pillars of Internet Universality.

This was evident in strong participation in four focus groups convened alongside the Stockholm Internet Forum this week. The discussions were chaired by the Association of Progressive Communications, which UNESCO has contracted to help develop a set of draft indicators through research and consultations online and offline.

The indicators will be pre-tested and piloted before being presented for possible endorsement in November 2018 to the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Council for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

A packed room of 35 people contributed vibrant views in a focus group discussion on the kinds of Rights online that could be prioritized for developing indicators. Amongst the proposals were: a right of access to remedy for Internet users who feel their human rights are harmed. Also mentioned were rights to language, as well as a right to not be subjected to degradation and threats online.

Also proposed for indicator development were privacy rights and the rights of disabled people, as well as the right to open a news website without having to have a license.

Another 15 people took part in a second focus group on how to define and measure Openness on the Internet. Suggestions were made about developing indicators to assess the extent of open education resources online, and the degree of openness for new entrants to Internet-mediated markets.

Other proposals were for indicators to enable assessment of the extent to which states proactively make data available and whether this data is machine-readable. 

There was also discussion about whether choice and plurality of services and content were part of Openness, alongside more traditional issues such as technical interoperability.

It was further suggested that open governance principles could be part of this set of indicators.

Questions were raised as to whether Openness should include assessment about whether algorithms are open for auditing, and whether security vulnerabilities known as “zero-day exploits” are hidden or brought to the attention of actors who could fix them.

Two further focus groups were convened to cover the topics of indicators for Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder participation.

Cross-cutting issues were also debated, such as whether there should be mainstreaming or specializing of indicators to take account of gender issues, and age differences such as apply to children and youth. 

Discussion also covered the ultimate use of indicators. Participants signalled their value as a tool for tracking policy outcomes over time, raising awareness, training and advocacy.  Additional uses pointed out included the value of the indicators for researchers, media and national human rights commissions.

A schedule of consultations around the world is being developed, and an online platform will be launched next month.