The key message from the ongoing assessment processes in three Latin American countries - Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay - is that the research is an x-ray of how Internet is being used, accessed and governed.
These insights are enabling national stakeholders to better understand the Internet development and make policy improvements in alignment with the Internet Universality ROAM-X framework.
In different testimonies at validation events in the three countries, participants in the assessment process have explained how the research using the UNESCO indicators is unfolding and what it means.
In Ecuador, Gonzalo Olmedo, a professor at the Polytechnic School of the Army (ESPE), noted that there is much room for improvement for the country in terms of increasing accessibility, given that only 58% of the Ecuadorian population currently has access to the Internet. Olmedo also noted that progress could be made regarding the availability of online content in more ancestral languages.
Independent researcher Valeria Yarad emphasized, among other issues, the importance of the Gender Internet Universality Indicators (IUIs) in assessing women and children’s Internet experience. Yarad focused on whether or not protection mechanisms exist, in order to combat potential threats encountered on the Internet.
Meanwhile, Johanna Pazmiño, a specialist of the Electronic Governance Directorate at the Ministry of Telecommunications and the Information Society (Mintel), praised the rigour of the IUIs: “It exposes what exists, regulations, and regulatory instruments from the State, we are seeing that there are enough instruments,” said Pazmiño. She anticipated that “the know-how of how to apply and evaluate is the complex part, and [the IUIs assessment] is a step that will help us in this regard.”
The importance of the research in Paraguay was acknowledged by Klaus Pistilli, representative of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MITIC) and coordinator of the IUIs study in the country.
“We seek to generate ICT public policies within the scope of our competence, backed by studies such as the one carried out this past year related to the UNESCO IUIs,” he said. “In this way, we seek—paraphrasing the Assistant Director General Moez Chakchouk—to strengthen the values of an Internet that is respectful of human rights, with freedom of expression, privacy and participation.” Pistilli hoped for “a transparent, technologically-neutral, accessible, affordable, inclusive Internet that embraces diversity without distinction of gender, age, race, culture or social origin.”
Nicolás Evers from the telecommunications regulator CONATEL noted that data is not only sourced from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), but also other indicators such as the Broadband Observatory of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), or the World Bank. Evers added that “the cross-over of data helps describe and draw a complete picture of the quality of our infrastructure, to strengthen government policies on accessibility to Internet networks.”
Use of local languages online was highlighted by Graciela Britos, representative of Paraguay’s National Secretary for Culture. Britos expressed interest to collaborate towards implementing the Guaraní language in a greater number of public information portals. "We know that this is important for the protection of living languages and culture,” she said. “I did not imagine that this could be a key indicator for a digital agenda, this will strengthen our way of thinking about culture in the online environment."
In Uruguay, the process has reached an advanced stage. A meeting took place with a multi-stakeholder group to validate the initial findings and collectively discuss the next steps of the implementation process. The governmental body leading the application process, Agencia de Gobierno electrónico y Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento (AGESIC), stated that thorough preliminary results will be shared at the forthcoming Internet Governance Forum (IGF), in Berlin.
The Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators framework is a set of 303 indicators that aims to assess how well national stakeholders including governments, companies and civil society perform in adhering to the ROAM standards of Rights, Openness, Accessiblity, Multistakeholder participation. Developed over a three-year process of global and inclusive consultations with stakeholders, it was endorsed in November 2018 by the 31st Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). Since then, UNESCO has been working with stakeholders from more than 25 countries to implement national assessments of Internet development using the Indicators. Initial results from the ongoing national assessments will be showcased at the upcoming Internet Governance Forum, Berlin, on 25 November 2019.