UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators consulted at the 8th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum

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Gayatri Khandahai, APC; Xianhong Hu, UNESCO; Chat Garcia Ramilo, APC; Winston Roberts, IFLA; Piyawan Suwattanathum, UNESCO, at the Internet indicators consultation, 8th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), Bangkok, July 2017
© Asad Baig
09 August 2017

“Internet Universality indicators should measure broad social implications of the Internet and serve as a powerful tool to foster sustainable development,” was a strong message delivered by Asia-Pacific stakeholders at UNESCO consultation to develop Internet Universality indicators during the 8th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) in Bangkok (Thailand), 29 July 2017.

The Bangkok consultation event,  co-moderated by Ms. Xianhong Hu (UNESCO) and Ms. Chat Garcia Ramilo (Association for Progressive Communications, APC), brought multi-stakeholders and experts from the Asia Pacific region to contribute to prioritizing issues within the five categories indicators along the Internet Universality R.O.A.M principles, namely on human Rights, Openness, Accessibility, Multi-stakeholder participation, as well as concerning Crosscutting issues.

“Rights entail a number of digital rights including freedom of religious and political expression and right to assembly and association online. Privacy concerns on the Internet are extremely important as well”, stated Ms Gayatri Khandahi from APC on human Rights indicators. In addition, she noted the importance of social and economic rights exercised on the Internet, such as the right to work and the right to political participation, and the jurisdiction challenges of these rights in the pretext of Internet. She emphasized the need to consult also with vulnerable groups, such as women, trans-gender groups and migrants.

Dr. Anja Kovacs from Internet Democracy Project pointed out that rights have impact on other themes or indicators, for instance online abuse of women impacts access in India. She also noted that in the course of developing these indicators, it is crucial to take into account future trends because digital rights are evolving and these indicators might not be useful in 10 years.

“Open Internet is a top concern since it is being limited by many localized requirements.  Thus openness requires open and transparent policy and decision making process which is at the core of multi-stakeholder approach”, commented by Prof. Xue Hong from Beijing Normal University on Openness indicators. She suggested “open access” needs to consider people’s various barriers to access Internet, including legal barriers. She suggested that “open source”, “open innovation” and “open market” are also important aspects to measure the level of openness.

On Accessibility indicators, Mr Winston Roberts from the International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions (IFLA) suggested that the definition of universal access needs to be updated and access in various forms can be used as an indicator, such access to broadband. He stressed the importance to include quality access and access in rural areas.

“Access and accessibility should be defined clearly. Access should include indicators to assess quality of service and openness should include assessment of the market”, stated Ms. Bishakha Datta. Mr. Naveed Haq from Internet Society suggested those accessibility indicators could check how many government websites are available to people with disabilities.

“Internet is a classic example where various communities are represented and thus multistakeholderism becomes important”, said Mr. Naveed Haq from Internet Society on Multistakeholder indicators.  Mr. Sunil Abraham from Center for Internet Society raised challenges that the government needs to deregulate policies and laws and redo them with a multi-stakeholder process, but on the other hand, private sectors fail to mitigate harm through the self-regulatory model. Mr. Joyce Chen, ICANN representative, highlighted the importance to engage with governments, who need to facilitate more dialogue.

“The rights and interest of those vulnerable groups, such as transgender and women should be considered by the indicators, particularly to assess how rights, such as the right to privacy intersect with their agenda”, suggested by Ms. Bishakha Datta from Point of View on Crosscutting dimension indicators.  Dr Anja Kovacs pointed out that it is crucial not miss out groups of people whose interests might not be directly aligned with their governments, for instance refugees or migrants.”

In addition to the ongoing on-site Multistakeholder consultation sessions, UNESCO is now also offering the possibility for interested actors, including Member States, to participate in the consultation online at https://en.unesco.org/internetuniversality.

As an ongoing project developed by UNESCO, Internet Universality Indicators aims to serve as a recognized and authoritative global research tool for national assessing Internet development along the lines of UNESCO’s Internet Universality concept as endorsed by UNESCO 38th General Conference in 2015. The final indicators will be presented in 2018 and will be submitted to the UNESCO Member States in the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) for endorsement.