In April 2017, a consortium led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) was appointed through a global competitive tendering process to undertake work with UNESCO on the development of the Indicators. In addition to APC, this consortium included ict Development Associates and two regional ICT research institutes LIRNEasia and Research ICT Africa. Research for the project was led by Dr David Souter of ict Development Associates, supported by Ms Anri van der Spuy. The project team was coordinated by Ms Anriette Esterhuysen.
UNESCO appointed a Multistakeholder Advisory Board, made up of fifteen international experts in different aspects of the Internet, from different regions and stakeholder communities, to advise on implementation of the project. Additional support and advice have been provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Advice was sought and received from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The project has been developed through three phases of research, consultation and validation.
The first phase was concerned with the broad themes of Internet Universality and the ways in which they might be encapsulated in an indicator framework. It included two elements:
- Desk research into existing indicators and indices which have been developed or adopted by intergovernmental organisations, international NGOs and other stakeholders.
- Consultation with the diverse stakeholder communities that are concerned with the Internet. The governments of Member States, international organisations and associations with particular interest in the Internet were explicitly invited to participate in this consultation.
The consultation process had two elements:
- An online consultation, in the six official UN languages, was launched at the WSIS Forum on 14 June 2017 and remained open until 31 October 2017. This attracted 198 contributions.
- Consultative meetings and workshops were held at 26 international, regional and national events concerned with the Internet, in 22 countries, between 29 March and 31 October 2017.
This first phase of work enabled the preparation of a draft indicator framework and set of indicators which were set out in the document Defining Internet Universality Indicators, published online and offline in December 2017. Six main criteria, drawn from UNESCO’s previous experience with indicators, were considered in this work:
- that indicators should be chosen where measurement data are sufficiently reliable in quality to permit confident interpretation;
- that the selected indicators should be quantitative where possible and qualitative where appropriate;
- that they should be independently verifiable where possible;
- that they should, where possible and relevant, permit disaggregation by sex, age group, locality and other population characteristics;
- and that it should be possible for the necessary data or information to be gathered, at reasonable cost in time and money, in the majority of countries.
A second consultation process was held from 1 December 2017 to 15 March 2018, enabling all stakeholders to respond to this framework and draft indicators. The governments of Member States, international organisations and associations with particular interest in the Internet were again explicitly invited to participate.
Stakeholders were invited, in this second consultation, to address three questions:
- Are there any additional themes, questions or indicators which you believe should be included in the framework?
- Are there any suggestions that you wish to make in respect of the proposed themes, questions and indicators which are included in the framework as it stands?
- What sources and means of verification would you recommend, from your experience, in relation to any of the questions and indicators that have been proposed?
As in the first phase, this second phase included:
- An online consultation in six languages, which received 138 contributions.
- Consultative meetings and workshops at 15 international, regional and national events which were held in 13 countries between 1 December 2017 and 18 May 2018. These included regional consultation events in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Arab States regions.
The draft indicators were revised in light of contributions made to this consultation process. The third phase of work comprised scientific assessments of the feasibility of revised draft indicators which were undertaken in four countries – Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria and Pakistan – during May 2018. These assessed the viability of obtaining evidence to assess each of the indicators included in the framework and considered ways of implementing the framework in pilot countries.
Part-pilots of the indicators, exploring actual evidence, were undertaken in Brazil, Senegal and Thailand between July and September 2018.
On 21 November 2018, the 31st Session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Council of the International Program for Development of Communication (IPDC) “welcomed the Internet Universality indicators framework” and “endorsed the use of this tool on a voluntary basis as a useful resource available for Member States.” The Council also “encouraged interested Member States and all stakeholders, on voluntary basis, to support and conduct national assessments of Internet development with the Internet Universality indicators,” and “to use the research findings for evidence-based policy discussions and recommendations.”