UNESCO holds a multistakeholder consultation on Internet Universality Indicators at EuroDIG conference

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Xianhong Hu and Anriette Esterhuysen presenting UNESCO’s ongoing project of defining Internet Universality indicators.
© UNESCO
19 June 2017

Great interest was expressed in taking part in UNESCO’s global consultation process and valuable suggestions were given to develop Internet Universality Indicators by researchers, civil society groups as well as government and private sector representatives who attended UNESCO consultation event at the EuroDIG conference.

During a pre-event organized at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) on Monday, 5 June 2017 in Tallinn (Estonia), UNESCO and its commissioned Internet indicators consortium led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) consulted with interested stakeholders on new project to define Internet Universality Indicators. They insisted on the importance of these indicators to assess Internet development, discussed the challenges of the project and all the participants contributed their views and suggestions.

“UNESCO is committed to develop Internet Universality Indicators through a global multi-stakeholder consultation process which is inclusive and transparent for all stakeholders to contribute”, stressed Xianhong Hu (UNESCO) in her opening remarks. Anriette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications), co-moderator, mentioned that the research institutions in the consortium come from Africa, Asia and Latin America. She explained the session was a ‘glorified focus group’ to examine the indicators and opened the floor to the speakers and the audience.

“It is very important to conduct physical consultations and develop clear indicators for a better implementation”, suggested Karmen Turk (Triniti Law Firm, University of Tartu) when she shared the  good practice of  developing Internet freedom indicators by the Council of Europe for UNESCO to use at the global level.

“It’s a real challenge to come up with indicators that are straightforward and give a clear picture of the level of openness of the Internet in a given country” pointed out Chris Buckridge (RIPE NCC) who made remarks on the openness dimension of the indicators. He emphasized the importance of technical data, which can provide support to community through data and statistics and suggested that UNESCO, governments, operators and civil society organizations will need to collaborate actively on the indicators, sharing data and fostering relationships.

Stephen Wyber (International Federation of Library Associations) spoke about accessibility indicators. Mr. Wyber referred to initiatives by IFLA and others to put together useful statistics and global data on public access to the Internet and information. He emphasized the importance of understanding what people are actually looking for and how they are using the Internet before developing the indicators.

Xingdong Fang (CEO of Cyberlabs) spoke about multi-stakeholderism indicators and emphasized the idea of taking a pragmatic and empirical approach when developing the indicators. He added that this approach would help measure participation based on a good understanding of what the users do and need on the Internet, particularly in those under developed regions where billions of people will get access to the Internet in the near future.

Andrea Calderaro (Cardiff University) introduced his remarks on the crosscutting dimension of the indicators by stating: “This [project] is a great opportunity to go beyond the classical way of thinking about Internet.” He then insisted on the fact that in developing these indicators, UNESCO will have to focus on the quality of Internet access and find a way to measure how pluralistic is the Internet, how people feel free not just to post on social media platforms.

The moderators then gave the floor to the audience for their remarks and questions. With the speakers, they debated about cultural diversity, Internet legislation, access for persons with disabilities and the consultation process.

UNESCO is encouraging interested entities and individuals to engage with its ongoing global consultation process, which includes a series of physical consultation events and online consultations via email (more information can be received by emailing internetstudy@unesco.org).  A dedicated website will be launched at the World Summit of the Information Society Forum in Geneva during June 2017.

The project is supported by Sweden and Internet Society, and the elaboration of the indicators for presentation to the IPDC will be finalized by June 2018.