UNESCO’s ongoing consultations on Internet indicators have benefited from expert input at a special session hosted at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn (Germany).
The occasion, on 20 June 2017, was co-chaired by Albana Shala, Chair of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication and Christine M. Merkel, Head of the Division of Culture, Communication, Memory of the World at the German Commission for UNESCO.
As an ongoing project developed by UNESCO, Internet Universality Indicators will serve as a recognized and authoritative global research tool for voluntarily assessing Internet development along the lines of UNESCO’s Internet Universality concept as endorsed by UNESCO 38th General Conference in 2015.
The Bonn event brought stakeholders and multi-stakeholder experts 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.
On human Rights indicators, experts recommended to look at existing international reports and not repeat work already developed. In addition, a number of contributions noted the importance of considering the rights specifically of women and children in relation to the Internet environment, and called for appropriate indicators for measurement.
Others suggested consideration of whether there should be a right to access to the Internet, and further attention was pointed to the rights to privacy, dignity and equality, especially in the case of online hate speech. One participant emphasized the problem of enforcement of regulations and agreements are already in place, and called for monitoring and implementing obligations.
On Openness indicators, “media diversity” online was recommended as important to assess.
How openness is impacted by artificial intelligence within the landscape of transparency, open data and Internet of Things, was also signalled. Many stakeholders mentioned the importance to measure accountability (e.g., open government, public information) and transparency (e.g., access to government data vs. classified material).Other potential indicators were recommended, such as measuring whether or not a society has an institution that can ensure implementation of public information laws.
On Accessibility indicators, participants pointed to the importance of media literacy, digital participation, access to hardware, and tools to use the Internet, as well as assessment of affordability. In addition, linguistic diversity and the diversity of offers for handicapped persons were mentioned as important indicators of accessibility.
On Multistakeholder indicators, experts noted the importance of identifying and holding different stakeholders accountable in Internet governance. It was recommended to evaluate the role of private sector actors and whether transnational companies are dominant. It was proposed that “strong civil society” is a good indicator in this category. Some experts called attention to assessing when engagement in a multistakeholder process is genuine.
On Cross-cutting issues, participants called for transparency and accountability to be treated as cross-cutting indicators. In addition, it was recommended to identify indicators to measure the inclusion of “humanity” into technology to empower individuals.
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.
The final indicators will be presented in 2018 and will be submitted to the UNESCO Member States in the IPDC for possible endorsement.
The Internet Universality concept was agreed by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2015, and is a means to integrate UNESCO’s work, in the framework of the World Summit on the Information Society, to build Knowledge Societies and fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.