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Academic community welcomes UNESCO’s project to develop Internet Universality Indicators during GIG-ARTS conference

30 April 2018

“These Internet indicators can be used positively, as a collective and enabling enterprise, to highlight something that was previously hidden and to draw attention to the diversity of the world,” said Professor Robin Mansell, Head of the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, talking about UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators during a consultative session held at the GIG-ARTS conference organized by the Centre for Internet and Global Politics / Cardiff University on 27 April 2018.

UNESCO hold a consultative session on Internet Universality Indicators during the Second European Multidisciplinary Conference on Global Internet Governance Actors, Regulations, Transactions and Strategies (GIG-ARTS 2018) held in Cardiff, UK on 27 April 2018. The session aimed to present the draft Internet Indicators to the academic community for their assessment and advice.

“The concept of “Internet Universality” was adopted to highlight features of the Internet which UNESCO believes are fundamental to fulfilling its potential for sustainable development,” said UNESCO representative Xianhong Hu in opening remarks. Presenting the initiative, she added: “this project aims to develop a tool allowing interested stakeholders to map the state of Internet Universality in their own country”. The concept embraces the four ROAM principles witch advocate for an Internet based on human Rights, that is Open, Accessible to all and nurtured by Multistakeholder participation. After presenting key features of the consultation and research process to develop the indicators, Xianhong Hu gave the floor to the discussants.

Robin Mansell from the London School of Economics and Political Science welcomed the indicators, and particularly those on gender, children and young adults, cyber security and rights. At the same time, she raised her concerns that “even though these indicators are not intended for comparison, there is a risk that they will be used to rank countries and to define a linear path to Internet development”. Despite those concerns, she added: “these indicators can be used positively as a collective and enabling enterprise, to highlight something that was previously hidden”. 

“The main interest of this set of indicators is that each category of indicators can be put in a curriculum and used for capacity building,” said Meryem Marzouki from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Welcoming the development of these indicators, she advised UNESCO to articulate them with other initiatives, including the Pravah Jaipur Initiative, EU-led projects (like the Global Internet Policy Observatory), and others, like the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database. Meryem Marzouki also encouraged UNESCO to develop mechanisms to track the use of the indicators.

Andrea Calderaro, Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University and member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Board on UNESCO’s project to define Internet Universality Indicators, talked about his involvement in the project and suggested to centralize the quantitative indicators and provide it as a database to everyone: “if you provide this information, local partners will not be overburdened trying to find data that is already there”.

Xianhong Hu concluded the session and directed all interested participants to UNESCO’s dedicated platform: https://en.unesco.org/internetuniversality. During Phase 3, UNESCO will conduct further work on the draft indicators around the world, with the aim of further improvements and then publishing a final version in October 2018. This will be considered in November 2018 by the Intergovernmental Council of the UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).