UNESCO #NetStudy Connects the Dots for online access, freedom of expression, privacy and ethics

What measures should UNESCO advocate to ensure that the internet serves the interests of the largest number of users? What action needs to be taken to apply the rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—notably freedom to impart information and opinion, and privacy—online, as well as offline?

These questions are the subject of a comprehensive study on internet-related issues: Keystones to foster inclusive Knowledge Societies, a work in progress born of a year-long open consultation with the gamut of internet stakeholders. The study examines issues of freedom of expression and privacy, access, and ethics on the internet, and makes proposals to reinforce UNESCO’s work in these areas.

The research will serve as the basis of discussions at a UNESCO conference, Connecting the Dots (3 and 4 March), that will bring together some 300 participants, representatives of governments, civil society, academia, the private sector, the technical community, inter-governmental and international organizations as well as innovators and pioneers.

Connecting the Dots is an opportunity for the options contained in the study to be fine-tuned. Once finalized, UNESCO will present them to its Member States in late 2015, during the next General Conference which is held every second year to determine the Organization’s programme and priorities.

The study also represents a significant contribution to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+10 Review process and the post-2015 international development agenda. An outcome statement about the consultation at the Connecting the Dots conference will be submitted to UNESCO’s Executive Board, the body in charge of overseeing the Organization’s work, at its next session in April.

UNESCO’s 195 Member States in 2013 requested the Organization to conduct a comprehensive and consultative multi-stakeholder study on internet-related issues within UNESCO's fields of competence. As the United Nations Organization mandated to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image, UNESCO has had a long involvement in issues pertaining to the internet, including the World Summit on the Information Society and the Internet Governance Forum.

UNESCO has also been championing the use of information technologies to create and share knowledge. It believes that information technologies can significantly contribute to building inclusive “knowledge societies” in which people and communities are able to access, create, share and transform information and data and turn it into pertinent and valuable knowledge.

UNESCO’s partners and sponsors in organizing the Connecting the Dots conference are: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Google, the Walt Disney Company, EURid, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).