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UNESCO’s ROAM framework recognized by UN High-Level Panel Report on “digital interdependence”

21 June 2019

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Jovan Kurbalija, Executive director, Secretariat of the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, presented the newly-launched report at EuroDIG in the Hague, on 19 June 2019
© UNESCO

On June 10, 2019, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation released a new tech report, “The Age of Interdependence”, calling for a safer, more inclusive digital future. The report, which is accompanied by a signed “declaration of digital interdependence”, explores how digital technology can be harnessed to contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It advocates the critical importance of cooperation in the realm of digital issues – which should involve individuals, institutions, corporations as well as governments. 

As the UN entity with a mandate to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image”, UNESCO earlier had a contributed a submission during the High Level Panel consultations. This highlighted the Organization’s work in the field of human rights implications of digital developments, particularly in the areas of privacy and freedom of expression, and in promoting the ways in which digital spaces can foster sustainable development.

The final Report acknowledges UNESCO’s role, notably through the development of the ROAM framework: “UNESCO has used its Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder governance (ROAM) framework to discuss AI’s implications for rights including freedom of expression, privacy, equality and participation in public life.”

UNESCO’s establishment with the ITU of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development is also recognized as a cross-cutting initiative bringing forward the importance of broadband on policy agendas.

The “ROAM principles” referred to in the High Level Report are part of the concept of Internet Universality which were agreed by UNESCO Member States in 2015.  

From this framework, UNESCO has developed over three years the Internet Universality Indicators – a set of 303 indicators covering six categories. These are a research tool to holistically assess the state of Internet development nationally. The Indicators are currently being implemented in several countries, and UNESCO calls for voluntary expressions of interest on the part of stakeholders wishing to assess the state of Internet development in their country.

In relation with Internet issues, UNESCO is also working on Artificial Intelligence – on how to foster a development of AI that is in line with the same ROAM principles: Steering AI for Knowledge Societies: A ROAM perspective.