UNESCO advocated Access to Information and Internet Universality Indicators at FIFAfrica 2018

“The Internet Universality Indicators will allow all stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how the internet can work to support socio-economic goals. These indicators have a strong element of information literacy and in this way can help to diminish the fears that exist especially among the older generation concerning internet and its impact,” said Dorothy Gordon, Chairperson of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) Bureau during a session organized by UNESCO at FIFAfrica 2018.

As part of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), UNESCO held an interactive session on its Internet Universality Indicators in Accra, Ghana on September 28, 2018. The session was organized at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) and brought in various stakeholders from different African countries to reflect and exchange on how to use the Internet Universality indicators as a tool to enrich the stakeholders’ capacity for assessing Internet freedom and development, broaden international consensus, and foster access to information, online democracy and human rights.

The final draft of the Internet Universality indicators, as UNESCO representative Xianhong Hu presented to the plenary, contains 303 indicators including 109 core ones (under 6 categories, 25 themes, and 124 questions) to measure national Internet development and policies along the R.O.A.M dimensions of Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder as well as crosscutting issues.  Abdul Hamid Yakub from UNESCO Office in Ghana, moderated this dedicated session by asking participants about the relevance of the Internet Universality Indicators to empower stakeholders in Africa and the feasibility of using those indicators in the near future.

UNESCO Internet Universality indicators presented to the plenary of FIFAfrica, 27 September 2018. © UNESCO

Participants identified several challenges to access information in Africa, including “Internet and service shut-down”, “criminalization of online speech”,“ privacy protection”, “regulatory restrictions,” “lack of online multilingualism,” “high Internet costs,” “Internet taxation”, “irrelevant content,” “a lack of transparency and implementation of existing laws,” and “no multistakeholder governance.”

 “We hope that governments will incorporate the Internet indicators into their policies and that International agencies and other influential organizations that have programmes running in Africa will encourage them to do so,” said James Marenga, Vice Chairperson at Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), talking about the implementation UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators in the region.

Damola Sogunro, Principal Computer Analyst at the Federal Ministry of Communications and Technology, Nigeria, pointed the need to “break the traditional fear of technology, start accepting digital devices as instruments for positive learning, and promote those who are using it for good purposes in society.”

“There should be new code of laws that are implementable, that focus on digitalizing economies and facilitate transparency among major stakeholders,” added Qemal Affagnon, Regional Coordinator for West Africa at Internet Sans Frontières in Benin.

“It is also necessary to motivate the private sector to use the indicators. As the indicators help promote positive change in Internet policies, this will be profitable for their businesses. People also need to be encouraged to develop local content – reports for their location and communities, and explore other kinds of reports they could do regarding level of access to information. Considerations should be made to mobilize young people through competitions and other activities, especially in regions that have a highly youthful population,” concluded Dorothy Gordon.

 The project “Defining Internet Universality Indicators” was launched in January 2017, with the support of a Swedish Fund in Trust contribution and the endorsement of the 29th session of the Intergovernmental Council of the IPDC (International Program for Development of Communication). The framework of Indicators has been developed following a three-phase process (including desk research, global multi-stakeholder consultation online and offline, and the pre-testing and piloting of the Indicators in various countries), undertaken by UNESCO with the support of a consortium led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), which comprises ict Development Associates, LIRNEasia, and Research ICT Africa. The project has been supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA),  the Internet Society and ICANN. The final draft indicators will be submitted to UNESCO IPDC Council for validation in November 2018.

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