Highlights of the UNESCO's WSIS Action Lines implementation in 2016-2017

At the WSIS Forum 2017, all the United Nations Agencies renewed their commitments to contribute to the WSIS Follow-up processes and to realign their plans and activities towards achieving the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the WSIS+10 outcomes. The forum recalled UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres's message to the WSIS Forum participants that “Information and Communications Technologies can advance Human Rights, Sustainable Development and Peace, the three pillars of UN activity”. More then 2500 participants from 150 countries participated in the 5 day event from the 12th to 16th June 2017 in Geneva.

Both in 2016-2017, UNESCO implemented various activities towards the achievement on the WSIS implementation, financed through regular programme and extra-budgetary resources, these include; the implementation of the following Actions lines moderated by UNESCO C3, C7, C8, C9, C10 (a full list of Action lines, and description is annexed to this document)

Access to Information and Knowledge (WSIS Action line C3)

ICTs allow people, anywhere in the world to access information and knowledge instantaneously. Individuals, organizations and communication should benefit from access to knowledge and information. UNESCO, the international community and member states work together to develop policy guidelines, promoting research and development, showcasing different access models and promote public information delivery.

At the WSIS Forum 2016, ... UNESCO presented “Access to Scientific Knowledge (A2sk), Lessons learnt and the way forward. It was underlined that Open Access and Open Data will be the enabler STI (Science, technology and innovation) and the implementation of the SDGs, as both open data and open access helped to change the mindsets of producers and consumers of information and knowledge (i.e. Governments and citizens) and helped to reduce the digital divide.

During WSIS 2017, The High Level Session 1 on “ Defining Internet Universality Indicators and Access Policies to support the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda” UNESCO elaborated and presented the Internet universal indicators which serves to enrich the stakeholders capacity to access internet development towards building knowledge societies. UNESCO also presented its template on Knowledge Society Policy that offers concrete options for Member States to formulate and adopt appropriate policies at national level. UNESCO also organized the workshop session on Action Line C3 : Access to Information and Knowledge: Theme:  Is Software the Key to Access to knowledge in the Digital Age. The workshop was designed to kick-start a larger consultation among experts, educators, academics on the “Software Heritage Project” by UNESCO. This project focusses on software preservation and sharing of source codes for the purposes of education, digital literacy skills and pedagogical approaches.

E-Learning (WSIS Action Line C7)

ICT application can support sustainable development, in the fields of public administration, education and training, health, employment, environment, and science within the framework of national e-strategies, and capacity building and ICT literacy.

At the WSIS Forum 2016, ... UNESCO presented “Ensuring inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promoting of Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All” with a focus on supporting innovative strategies for access to quality learning opportunities by improving access to digital literacy for learners and teachers. UNESCO presented the ICT Competency Framework and highlighted the importance of Open licence solutions for ensuring inclusive access to knowledge societies. Various E-learning platforms were presented (i.e. MexicoX MOOC platform, E-learning Program at King Saud University)

The Action Line C7: E-learning. Theme: OER – Mainstreaming OER to achieve SDG4  explored the opportunities and challenges of Open Educational Resources (OERs) that allow users to legally and freely use, copy, adapt, combine and share educational resources in a way that is open and affordable. Key areas of increased collaboration were discussed including how to increase the capacity of users to access and share OER, issues related to language and culture, ensuring equitable and inclusive access to quality materials. It was acknowledged that OER has a significant potential to align with and support the achievement of SDG 4: Access to Quality Education, which is a priority sustainable development goal for UNESCO.

E-Science (WSIS Action Line C7)

Within the framework of leveraging the data revolution for the achievement of the SDGs UNESCO supported Action Line C7: E Science: Context of Big Data and Analytics for Knowledge Societies. This session presented key questions on how to build capacities at various levels for better understanding the context and issues related to big data and analytics, data packaging, data security and the culture of sharing data at institutional level., This included the future role of UNESCO in terms of standards setting, classification and nomenclature to improve data collection, analysis and design new solutions for implementation and the achievements of the various SDGs. As the UN Secretary-General H.E. Mr Antonio Guterres, said in his introductory message to the WSIS 2017 Forum “We want to ensure that Big Data will bring the big impact that so many people need and this forum can forge the partnerships among governments, private sector, civil society, technical community and academia”.

Cultural Diversity and Identity, Linguistic diversity and local content (Action Line C8)

Cultural and linguistic diversity, while stimulating respect for culture identity, traditions and religions is essential to the development of an Information and knowledge society based on the dialogue among cultures and regional and international cooperation. It is important to create policies that support respect, preservation, promotion and enhancement of cultural and linguistic diversity and cultural heritage within the information and knowledge society.

At the WSIS Forum 2016, a high-level panel was organized on “HD1 SDG 16: Promoting peaceful and inclusive (knowledge) societies” to underline the growing recognition and substantial investment in “soft” measures to effectively counter online radicalization and overcome intolerance, which includes media literacy and information literacy program especially targeted to youth. The outcome of the session highlighted increasing need for research required to how to formulate effective evidenced-based policy responses and how to use ICT to enhance wider artistic freedom and expression, the enjoyment of culture and foster intercultural dialogue.

Media (Action Line C9)

The media, in various forms and with a diversity of ownership, as an actor, have an essential role in the development of the information and knowledge society and are recognized as important contributor to freedom of expressions and plurality of information. It is important to support the development of domestic legislation that guarantees the independent and plurality of media, including by taking appropriate measures- consistent with freedom of expression- to combat illegal and harmful content,promote gender balance, and promote ICT tools to bridge the knowledge divide to facilitate the flow of knowledge, including cultural knowledge, also in rural areas.

At the WSIS Forum 2016, ... UNESCO created a session to “promote Media Freedom and Internet Universality at the heart of Achieving SDG target 16.10* Various indicators were discussed.

In the session Action Line C9: Media: Strengthening Privacy, Encryption and Source Protection for Media Freedom and Internet Development , UNESCO presented some publications and key outcomes to trigger stakeholders discussions on how to take forward the policy recommendations, and to translate them into actions so as to ensure the security of users by strengthening user privacy, encryption tools and source protection of media.

Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society (Action Line C10)

As all stakeholders of the Information society should be subject to universally held values and promote the common good and to prevent abusive uses of ICTs. Steps should be taken to promote respect for peace and uphold fundamental values Human Rights and of freedoms and liberties, equality, solidarity and greater awareness of the ethical dimension of ICTs usage.

During WSIS 2017, UNESCO organized a High-level Session on “Countering radicalization and violence extremism online. UNESCO shared the major outcomes from the first international conference on “Youth and the Internet”: Fighting radicalization and extremism (2015, Paris) and the Second international conference on the “internet and radicalization of Youth: Prevent, Act and live together (2016, Quebec). A broad panel of experts presented their diverse viewpoints and empirical research on the relationships and possible causality of online socialization and radicalization of youth leading to violent extremism.

The use of internet for radicalization of youth leading to violent extremism was further discussed in a more in-depth session during the Action line C-10: Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Darknet. This session explored the ways and means of this deeper layer of the internet that has been used by extremist groups and for illicit international activities and youth radicalization leading to extremism. The session also addressed possible scenarios in trying to regulate the Darknet.


* SDG 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements, it is crucial to implement two indicators as discussed: 16.10.1 Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months. 16.10.2 Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information